Daily (Or When The Mood Takes Me) Gripe: The Contract Trap!

If consumer law nerds to start tackling a major problem in service delivery, they need to do something about both mobile phone, and gym contracts. No wonder people are over the blatant rip-off, and are opting for the growing number of “no contract” options.

I recently moved from Brisbane to Sydney. In Brisbane, I had already a huge dispute with a gym I first used up there several years ago. I was getting pissed off enough with the lack of care for regular, long-term users as it was, but the crunch dame when I was accepted to do a course at TAFE – my Certificate III in Fitness – and had to start there within a week of being accepted. Perhaps not surprisingly, the couse included free use of the Southbank TAFE gym. So, not only would I no longer be using my regular gym, but would be continuing to pay for something I didn’t use. But I was tied into a contract, wasn’t I, anddespite the contract itself having expired, because I had continued I was still bound by its conditions – apparently we had been notified of this at the time of signing the contract, though neither myself nor my partner had any recollection if it. So, could I just give a couple of days notice to quit the gym? Not on your life – I had to give 30 days notice and,nof course, despite not using the services I would continue to be charged for the 30 days. I was ropable, and tried – futilely – to wreak my revenge by just refusing to pay. Naturally, they threatened kegal action, and being unwilling to get a black mark against my credit history, I eventually caved in.

Now, this is a gym! It is somewhere that I spend about 3 hours per week in! I don’t live there! I don’t work for them! Yet the conditions of the contract treat me as if I am an employee! I am required to give 30 days notice to quit – evidently it takes them 30 days to cancel your direct debit, inlike the two days it takes the non-contract gym. If I want to freeze my membership or quit for health reasons, I amrequired to supply a doctors certificate! To a gym! If I am wuitting to move, or go on a long holiday, I am required to give proof..land get this – they will then ACCESS my eligibility to quit the contract! What an infringement of rights…not to mention unbelievable abuse and manipulation of someone who is doing nothing more than using a service!

Likewise with phones. On moving into the shoebox that us called an apartment, I wanted to get wifi. I don’t use the 3G or 4G networks,  as I do everything on my tablet and wifi pretty well covers everything I want to do. I didn’t want to get tied into a contract, as we will be moving to the central coadt after our lease runs out next year, and it is eadier to just cancel the wifi service, and reconnect it at a new address after we move. For the privilege of not having a contract, I pay an exhorbitant monthly amount. They think, evidently, that by overcharging me, I will eventuall fold, and jove to a contract. I have news for them, and it’s all bad! I will continue to allow them to rip me off – the telco is Optus, by the way – because of the convenience itoffers, including unlimited data  usage – very handy when using streaming services like Netflix. As for my mobile phone – I have, despite saying I wouldn’t, optrd for a contract again, even though it locks me in for 2 years. I only use it for phone calls and messaging…and a bit of Facebook…so the low charge – and bew phone – I am paying for is still cheaper than a sim-only phone. I tried a mobile wifi modem when first arrived back so as to have access to wifi, and ut cost me a fortune in data charges. The phone companies love to rort everyone for data usage! It is so blatantly dishonest, but evetyone just lets them get away with it. There are a few smaller Telco’s hitting the sim-only market now, with better rates and conditions, but they are still piggy-backing off the bigTelco’s systems, so how they fare in the future remains to be seen.

So I land back in miserable Sydney (I really hate this city now!). I have gad two years of a no-contract gym…Jetts…in Brisbane. Ground level gyms flooded with sun, and natural light, not over-crowded with equipment, and quiet during the day, which is when I like to go. The Jetts gym in Sydney is quite a distance away, so I stipidly – and against my better judgement – opted for the closest gym…an Anytime Fitness, which is a contract gym, and at $69 a month, is not cheap! The gym is underground, so dark and oppressive. It is crammed with 7,  offers nothing in the way of space. What they consider a quiet period is not quiet, and one often has someone breathing down their heck, or finding equipment tied up, or in the case of the 12.5 kg dumbbells…just NEVER available. I hate it, and I’m not using it. Infortunstely, all these hassles didn’t present themselves within my 7 day cooling-off period. So now I’m stuck with having to pay my way out of the contract – a cheaper option than the $69 a month I am cyrrently paying. Of course, they were quick eniugh to sign me up, but now I want to quit I can’t get any help at all. 2 requests by email for a final pay-out figure have gone unanswered. The longer they stuff me around, the more money they get out of me.

It really is time for this free-ride by Telco’s and Franchisers to be looked into by an independent body. It is time to give everyone a fair deal. The continuing rise of no-contract gyms and phone companies should be causing the contract budinesses some concern. In particular, the terms and conditions of contracts shiuld be gone over with a magnifying glass, and cleaned up, and made fairer for all. Onvioysly, the more competative these businesses become, the better it will be for everyone concerned. At the very least, if they are going to treat me like an employee – as is the case with contract gyms – they can bloody well pay me a wage!

So, it’s back to the battle of breaking-the-contract! One thing I can now promise you…I will NEVER use a contract gym again. I just hope that, like Foxtel now finding itself in a competative market with Netflix…who are substantially cheaper…they will eventually be forced to reconsider how they do business. If contracts are not going to end – and they should be outlawed – then they have to ge made a lot more reasonable, and fair. I know investigations gave been threatened for a while now, but maybe it is either take action officially, or people need to talk with their feet!

Tim Alderman

(C) 2015

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