OFT warns against misleading gym marketing

The Office of Fair Trading is warning consumers to beware of misleading marketing tactics by gyms. The regulator is urging people to check carefully before signing any contracts.

The OFT warning comes during the peak season for gyms with many consumers looking to stick to New Year’s resolutions to get fit. The regulatory body says many people have received unsolicited phone calls, leaflets or pop-up advertising on websites, which claim they have won a “free” gift of membership.

However, it says, when they called the number on the ads, they discover that their “gift” requires them to pay a monthly fee and to sign up to a credit agreement. It adds that when they have tried to cancel the agreement, members are pressurised into continuing making payments.

The OFT has issued advice to prospective gym members on what to consider before signing up, with tips such as to ask what would happen if the member was injured and could not use the facilities and to look out for terms that automatically extend the official membership period without consent.

The body makes a specific warning related to competitions. It says: “If you are told you have won a gift or a prize from a competition, be careful and ask yourself if you have actually entered any competition, and investigate the terms thoroughly before signing any documents.”

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