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Watchdog in gym contract legal threat
A CONSUMER watchdog is to take legal action against gyms with unfair membership contracts, Workout Ireland can reveal. 
The National Consumer Agency (NCA) has issued a stark warning claiming that gyms that fail to modify or remove any clauses which are biased against the consumer may end in court. 
The move comes after the government body launched a consumer investigation into the unfairness of terms and conditions of leisure sector contracts, following a number of complaints. 
The NCA is calling on these clubs to immediately review the terms and conditions of their standard contract or face the unessary consequences. 
Acting chief executive of the NCA, Ms Ann Fitzgerald said: "If these clubs are not prepared to cooperate, I will not hesitate to take whatever action is necessary to bring about a level playing field for consumers and for traders who have already included fairer terms in their standard contracts.  This may require court orders but I am ready to go down this road if necessary.”  
Irish gym owner and former supermarket boss, Ben Dunne controversially changed his membership contracts after being contacted by the agency. 
The fitness group has removed clauses from its contracts, including one which allowed the fitness group to cancel membership ‘at any time without giving reason’ and a condition which absolved it from responsibility for the ‘failure or breakdown of facilities, however caused’. 
The gym group also removed a clause which prevented members from getting a refund of their membership fee, as well as a condition which gave it the right ‘to vary prices at its sole and absolute discretion’. 
ILAM, the leading body for the Irish Leisure Industry is encouraging its members to comply with the NCA’s guidelines.  
A spokesman said: “The NCA have covered all aspects and have clearly explained the issues. Under the provisions of the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts), Regulations, 1995, terms in standard consumer contracts such as those in gym membership forms must not be unfairly weighted against consumers. ILAM would promote self regulation and avoid possible legal action.  
“Mr. Ben Dunne is to be congratulated on his swift positive response to the NCA and it is ILAM’s hope that all other facilities will respond in like manner.”
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