With a new year ahead, many of us are thinking about turning over a new leaf. This could mean signing up for membership of a gym, or joining an online streaming service instead of paying for costly satellite or cable TV.
But while there are great deals out there, before signing up take time to make sure you don’t end up trapped in a deal you don’t want once the January rush wears off – perhaps because the service wasn’t what you expected, and/or you find it difficult to break out of it.
Citizens Advice says that over the past year, it’s helped 3,500 people with problems around gyms and fitness studios, with complaints including terms and conditions and people feeling they had been unfairly held in a contract. It also found that where people reported problems with subscriptions to TV, insurance, online streaming services and gym memberships, on average they had forked out £160 on membership over a three-month period.
So how can you make sure your quest to get fit doesn’t leave your finances out of shape? Here are some tips from Citizens Advice.
Make sure it’s worth it
If you’re signing up to a gym, consider how often you will go, and then work out your price per visit. If you’re going once a week or less, pay-as-you-go or individual classes may be cheaper and won’t tie you into a contract.
Be confident you know what you are signing up for
Take time to read the contract and ask questions so you fully understand what you’re committing to – and, importantly, how long for.
Check what your cancellation rights are
Make sure the terms and conditions look reasonable before signing up. If you’re signing up to a gym, find out if there are options to pause your membership or switch locations if you move away, lose your job or can’t train because of injury.
Check cooling off periods
You may find you have a period to get your money back if you change your mind. However, you might not be able to get a refund if you start using a service straight away.
Follow the cancellation policy
Make sure you follow the cancellation policy in your contract when you’re ready to end your subscription. Don’t stop your payment without checking what else is required, otherwise your subscription may not be cancelled and you could be liable for missed payments.
Challenge unfair T&Cs
People might have different views about what counts as an unfair policy. But if you’re finding it tough or have to give a long period of notice to cancel a subscription, contact the supplier’s customer services department. If this fails consider going to the supplier’s trade or complaints body or reporting it to Trading Standards.
Save the evidence
Keep a copy of any adverts or special offers that attracted you to a particular subscription. Make sure that you are promised these features in writing, either in your contract or in an email.
Complain if you need to
Explain to the company in writing why you think it is unreasonable that you’re not able to leave a membership. If you’re having problems then get free help from bodies such as Citizens Advice.