Gym contracts ruled unfair

People on treadmills

Lengthy gym membership contracts have been deemed "unfair" by a High Court ruling.

The ruling came in the case of Ashbourne Management Services, a management firm responsible for membership services and contracts at over 700 gyms across the UK.

The High Court ruled that minimum contract length terms recommended and enforced by Ashbourne, were unfair and therefore unenforceable.

The Court also ruled that the way in which Ashbourne collected arrears was unlawful.

In the four day hearing the court heard many consumers found their circumstances had changed a few months into a contract and their membership was no longer affordable but Ashbourne's contracts had minimum membership periods of between one and three years and the firm would not allow customers to terminate their membership.

When consumers stopped paying, Ashbourne reportedly demanded immediate payment of the full sum for the minimum period.

Mr Justice Kitchin ruled that Ashbourne's business model "is designed and calculated to take advantage of the naivety and inexperience of the average consumer using gym clubs at the lower end of the market," whom he considered that Ashbourne "exploited." He said that the minimum period is "a trap into which the average consumer is likely to fall."

The judge decided that it is unlawful to try to enforce or even to include unfair terms in contracts, where doing so could lead the consumer to pay money they would not otherwise have done.

Jason Freeman, director in the OFT goods and consumer group, says:

"We have received many complaints about Ashbourne's contracts, and many consumers have felt pressured into paying sums of money that they believed they did not owe. We are pleased that the Court has confirmed that these practices are unlawful, and this should bring peace of mind to many people who have fallen into the trap of signing up to these lengthy gym contracts.

"Unfair terms that unreasonably bind consumers into long contracts they cannot leave, and heavy-handed collection techniques, have no place in businesses' dealings with consumers. This ruling should help traders to understand where the boundaries lie, and sends a warning that if they cross the line, the OFT and local trading standards services can take action."

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Wouldn't this ruling also make the minimum term and early cancellation fees, where you have to pay the remaining term of contract in full, on mobile phone contracts unfair (minimum term) and unlawful (early cancellation fee)?


I joined city gym in Worcester 2 years ago and was roped into joining for 3 years and promised services within the gym, that never materialized. Therefore i rang up and said i was mis-sold the product and wanted to cancel. They said they would investigate and call me back. Months later I received a letter demanding the full membership amount for 3 years, no mention of my complaint, only that i had cancelled my Direct Debit and had so many days to pay it off in full.

After that i was bombarded with phone calls, threats of court action, letter after letter came, averaging 2 per week. I have sent them several letters explaining they were supposed to be investigating, and to take me to court, to which they ignored and continued to bombard me with calls and threatening letters.

I have since been made redundant, which voids the contract, i sent them a copy of my job seekers letter to which they kept but said it was insufficient proof.


This company stink wish I had never had anything t do with them. ,felt under immense presure to sign the contract just feel cheated the way they go around it is just wrong I'm glad they have been taket n to court think they deserved it I know they are desperate to get people to pay up, letters. Started coming from AM then ARC global even a letter from trevor munn the text messages and letters are from ashbourne management again .........They won't get another penny from me .,.

Most gyms have machines that are designed to work one particular body part.


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The high court’s decision is fair and in favor of customer benefits. In many cases, the contracts were unfair because AMS was unsuccessful to make clear that the customer was contracting with the gym, rather than with AMS, and refused to allow the customer to cancel by contacting the gym directly. It is hard for customer to continue the gym membership because their priorities are always changing.
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