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Editor's letter
A chance to shine

New laws are about to come into force that will oblige health club operators to offer consumers better membership terms. It will be disruptive, but tackled well, will change the sector for the better


Even a quick browse through customer ratings on platforms such as Trustpilot make it clear that all is not well in the land of health club contracts, with consumer complaints centred around the terms and most specifically issues that arise when ending them.

Of course this doesn’t apply to all operators, but those who sail close to the wind in imposing onerous terms on consumers cause real harm to the reputation of the sector.

I’ve been told on good authority that some make more income from financial penalties associated with membership severances than they do from the actual memberships and this just can’t be right.

Now the UK government is passing legislation to give greater power to consumers when it comes to health club membership contracts in the form of The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill which has been designed to clamp down on subscription traps, fake reviews and drip pricing. The bill is expected to become law in Q2 this year and be fully implemented by 2025.

The legislation will grant the UK’s Competitions and Markets Authority stronger powers to tackle businesses that breach consumer rights in a variety of ways.

Operators will be required to give clear information to consumers about contract terms at the point of signing, rather than hiding it in small print, while making it as easy for consumers to get out of contracts as it is for them to sign up in the first place.

There’ll be a mandatory 14-day cooling off period at the start of every contract and a further 14-days if prices change and at the end of each contract term, with the customer pro-actively notified and given sufficient warning.

In some cases this will mean a 14-day cooling off period will need to be given at the end of every year.

Trade body UK Active is representing the sector in negotiations with the government to make sure the legislation doesn’t create an ‘undue burden’, but it’s clear those without contracts, such as The Gym Group and PureGym, will be in a stronger position, while operators with complex contracts will need to overhaul their systems to accommodate the new framework.

Ultimately, whatever the law compels us to do, this is an opportunity for the sector to shine in the eyes of consumers by going above and beyond in creating an excellent contract environment. This will be especially felt by members who’ve had a difficult time with a contract, while also giving us the opportunity as an industry to heal rifts with people who feel they’ve been unfairly treated at some point. As we work to grow the community of consumers who are engaged with the sector, this has never been more important.

Liz Terry, editor
[email protected]

 


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17 Jul 2024 Leisure Management: daily news and jobs
 
 
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SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2024 issue 2

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Leisure Management - A chance to shine

Editor's letter

A chance to shine


New laws are about to come into force that will oblige health club operators to offer consumers better membership terms. It will be disruptive, but tackled well, will change the sector for the better

New laws will change health club contract law photo: pure gym/Martin Brent

Even a quick browse through customer ratings on platforms such as Trustpilot make it clear that all is not well in the land of health club contracts, with consumer complaints centred around the terms and most specifically issues that arise when ending them.

Of course this doesn’t apply to all operators, but those who sail close to the wind in imposing onerous terms on consumers cause real harm to the reputation of the sector.

I’ve been told on good authority that some make more income from financial penalties associated with membership severances than they do from the actual memberships and this just can’t be right.

Now the UK government is passing legislation to give greater power to consumers when it comes to health club membership contracts in the form of The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill which has been designed to clamp down on subscription traps, fake reviews and drip pricing. The bill is expected to become law in Q2 this year and be fully implemented by 2025.

The legislation will grant the UK’s Competitions and Markets Authority stronger powers to tackle businesses that breach consumer rights in a variety of ways.

Operators will be required to give clear information to consumers about contract terms at the point of signing, rather than hiding it in small print, while making it as easy for consumers to get out of contracts as it is for them to sign up in the first place.

There’ll be a mandatory 14-day cooling off period at the start of every contract and a further 14-days if prices change and at the end of each contract term, with the customer pro-actively notified and given sufficient warning.

In some cases this will mean a 14-day cooling off period will need to be given at the end of every year.

Trade body UK Active is representing the sector in negotiations with the government to make sure the legislation doesn’t create an ‘undue burden’, but it’s clear those without contracts, such as The Gym Group and PureGym, will be in a stronger position, while operators with complex contracts will need to overhaul their systems to accommodate the new framework.

Ultimately, whatever the law compels us to do, this is an opportunity for the sector to shine in the eyes of consumers by going above and beyond in creating an excellent contract environment. This will be especially felt by members who’ve had a difficult time with a contract, while also giving us the opportunity as an industry to heal rifts with people who feel they’ve been unfairly treated at some point. As we work to grow the community of consumers who are engaged with the sector, this has never been more important.

Liz Terry, editor
[email protected]


Originally published in Health Club Management 2024 issue 2

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