Memberships at Gyms and Weight-Loss Clinics

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These days there is a lot of social pressure to be beautiful, fit and in shape. It's easy to be convinced to join a gym or a weight loss clinic. What are your rights when you sign a contract with these "health clubs"? And what happens if you change your mind?

The rules in the article only apply when you go in person to sign a contract with a gym or weight-loss clinic. If you make a contract at a distance, for example by Internet or telephone, the rules might be different. Check the website of the Office de la protection du consommateur (consumer protection bureau) to find out more.

Also, the facilities and services listed below are not covered by the Consumer Protection Act:

  • health clubs operated by a public or private school, school board, CEGEP or university
  • health clubs operated by a municipality
  • services offered by a member of a professional corporation, for example, a nutritionist or doctor

If there's a problem, you can try to settle things on a friendly basis with the people in charge, but the rules discussed in this article do not apply. 

 

Permits

People who operate gyms or weight loss clinics must have permits from the Office de la protection du consommateur (consumer protection office).

You can check the Office's website to see if a facility has a permit and whether it's still valid.

 

Membership Contracts

A contract with a gym or weight loss clinic cannot be for more than one year. The contract must be in writing and have this information:

  • the operator's permit number
  • your name and address 
  • the name and address of the operator
  • the date and place of the contract
  • a description of the purpose of the contract (the goods and services included)
  • the date when the operator will start offering you services
  • the length of the contract
  • the place where you'll receive the services
  • the total price
  • the method of payment
  • your right to cancel the contract

The operator must give you a copy of the contract.

You can ask a court to cancel the contract if it doesn't have the information listed above and you have suffered some kind of harm because the information was missing.

 

Paying for Memberships

You do not have to pay until the merchant begins offering you the services in your contract or gives you access to the equipment and facilities. 

If the total cost of the membership $100 or less, the operator can require payment all at once.

If the cost is more than $100, you are allowed to pay in two or more payments. The payments must be of roughly equal value and be made at regular intervals. For example, if the contract is for one year, the payments can be in January and July. The operator could not require payments in January and February.

 

Cancelling a Membership Contract  

If you have not yet received any services or if you don’t yet have access to the equipment and facilities, you can cancel your contract without fees or penalties.

From the moment the merchant begins offering you services or gives you access to the equipment and facilities, you can cancel your contract within a period of time that is equal or less than 1/10 of its total length. In this case, there may be cancellation fees. These fees cannot be more than 1/10 of the total value of the contract.

Example

You have a 10-month contract with a weight loss clinic. You begin receiving services on the same day that you signed the contract. The deadline to cancel the contract is one month (1/10 of 10 months).

If the total cost of the membership was $200, the operator cannot ask for more than $20 (1/10 of $200).

To cancel the contract, you must use the cancellation form attached to the contract. You can also send a written notice to the operator. Be careful: a phone call is not enough.

The contract is cancelled as soon as you send the form or notice.

Within 10 days of the cancellation, the operator must give you back any money you paid in advance. The operator can deduct the amount you owe for cancelling your contract.

You can still cancel your contract even after 1/10 of the length of the contract has passed. But you'll have to pay for the services you already received. You might also have to pay an additional amount if the merchant can prove he suffered a loss because of the cancellation.

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.