How to avoid getting trapped in a gym deal or other annual subscriptions you don't want

Be careful when taking out a gym membership
Be careful when taking out a gym membership

With a brand new year lying ahead, many of us are thinking about turning over a new leaf.

For some, this could mean taking out to a new subscription - for the gym or an online streaming service, for example.

But while there are many great deals out there, it’s worth taking some time to make sure you don’t end up trapped in a deal you don’t want - 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 12 months, it’s helped people with nearly 3,500 problems around gyms, health clubs and fitness studios - with common complaints including "terms and conditions" and people feeling they had been unfairly held in a contract, and facilities or classes being not as expected.

And people who took similar complaints to Citizens Advice on average forked out £160 on unwanted subscriptions over a three-month period.

So here are some need to know tips about subscriptions from Citizens Advice...

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. FIND OUT ABOUT 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.

5. FOLLOW THE CANCELLATION POLICY

Make sure you follow the cancellation policy set out in your contract when you’re ready to end your subscription.

Don’t stop your payment without checking what else is required first - otherwise your subscription may not be cancelled and you could be liable for any missed payments.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. MAKE A COMPLAINT 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 still having problems then get free help from bodies such as Citizens Advice.