Virgin Active to relax cancellation rules for members

Steve Parsons/PA Archive

An Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation has prompted a change to the terms and conditions of the membership contracts for Virgin Active gym members.

The chain will relax its cancellation rules for members who have lost their jobs and relax the notice period required.

The news comes after months of controversy surrounding unfair gym contracts, with the OFT issuing a number of warnings to fitness centres across the country.The OFT has been investigating all major fitness clubs since January this year, after a High Court ruling found a gym management company - Ashbourne Management Services (AMS) - had been using and recommending unfair contract terms.

The OFT has said it has now closed its investigation into Virgin Active Ltd and said that it "did not find any evidence that Virgin Active was using contract terms or business practices found to be unfair by the High Court in the AMS case".

However Virgin Active has agreed to make changes to the terms and conditions of its contracts.

What do the changes mean for consumers?

Up until now customer who are made redundant have had only one month from their final working day to give notice if they want to cancel their membership. This has now been increased to two months and extended to those lose their job through circumstances other than redundancy.

Previously the notice period for customers on legacy 24-month Esporta contracts was three months, but Virgin have agreed to reduce this to one month.

The company will also make changes to their debt collection letters which are sent out by third parties, using them to highlight the benefits of debt advice.

What impact will it have?

Hopefully at a time when people facing redundancy and unemployment is incredibly high, these changes will make it easier for customers who find themselves out of work to cancel their membership more easily and with a shorter notice period - making the contract fairer for consumers.
The OFT investigation into gym and fitness chains as well as management companies who provide services to gyms is ongoing. Those found to be in breach of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts regulations will be ordered to make the necessary changes and could face fines and court action.

Contract caution

Nevertheless, gym contracts are notoriously tricky to get out of so it's worth reading the small print to make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Never agree to a verbal contract - you must always see something written down in black and white or you have nothing to back you up when things go wrong.

And if you do think your gym is treating you unfairly, kick up a fuss. Have a look here to see just how successful that can be.

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