Shanghai sets cooling-off period for gym membership

By Zhu Bochen
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, January 2, 2021
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A woman runs in a gym in Fuzhou, the capital of southeast China's Fujian province, Aug. 4, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Starting from Jan. 1, customers in Shanghai will be able to cancel their gym membership unilaterally within seven days of signing a new contract. The terms ensure that they will receive a full refund on the condition that the membership services haven't been used during this time.

The policy looks to tackle the issue of impulse purchases made on account of the over-marketing of fitness and health clubs and help customers deal with relevant contractual restrictions for refunds.

A standardized contract template containing a seven-day cooling-off period was therefore introduced to the public on Dec. 28 by Shanghai's sports authorities, market watchdog, and fitness associations. The contract template will be officially adopted by 15 large-scale fitness companies and some 400 health clubs in the city at the beginning of 2021.

In addition to addressing consumer's impulse purchases, the contract template covers situations where fitness companies have breached their contract. This includes the unauthorized change of membership services as well as the sudden closure, relocation, and shutdown of businesses without any compensation plans in place.

Local authorities also encourage consumers to think twice and read the contract and its supplemental agreement carefully before signing up for gym memberships as the terms are often quite different from other prepaid business cards. For example, once they expire, no deposit will remain on a gym membership card and most cannot be extended or activated for a second time.

While many social media users have voiced their support of the scheme, some believe that they might need a longer period of time to "cool off."

"I am probably most motivated during the first couple days upon buying a gym membership," read one comment on China's microblog platform Sina Weibo. "Maybe a month-long cooling-off period would work better for most of us."

Still, many believe that the cooling-off period provides little help in solving the potential financial scams behind the variety of membership cards that currently exist in China's service industry. 

One common type of consumer fraud today involves "owners" of barbershops and fitness clubs selling memberships to a store that they do not even own. Even if they do own a business, there is little to guarantee that the owner won't suddenly abscond with all of the money that they have made.

Some on social media thus urged that government regulatory bodies provide additional supervising efforts over for such memberships, effectively preventing potential fraud from occurring.

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