Your Money: When a costly subscription starts to feel like an affliction

Many people sign up for gyms in January (Getty Images/iStock)
Many people sign up for gyms in January (Getty Images/iStock)

WITH a brand new year lying ahead, many of us are trying to turn over a new leaf to get 2018 off to a positive start.

For some, this could mean taking out a new subscription – for the gym or an online streaming service, for example.

But while there are many great deals out there, before signing up it’s worth taking some time to make sure you don’t end up trapped in a deal you don’t want once the January rush wears off – perhaps because the service wasn’t what you expected, or you find it difficult to break out of it.

Over the past 12 months, Citizens Advice has helped people with nearly 3500 problems around gyms, health clubs and fitness studios.

Common complaints include the terms and conditions, contracts, and facilities or classes being not what was expected.

The costs of an unwanted subscription can soon add up. Separate analysis from Citizens Advice of cases where people reported problems with subscriptions such as TV, insurance, online streaming services and gym memberships, found that, on average, these people had forked out £160 on unwanted subscriptions over a three-month period.

So how can you avoid falling into the same trap? Here are some need-to-know tips about subscriptions from Citizens Advice…

Make sure it’s worth it

If you’re signing up to a gym, consider how often you will go, and then work out your price per visit. If you’re going once a week or less, pay-as-you-go or individual classes may be cheaper and won’t tie you into a contract.

Be confident you know what you are signing up for

Take time to read the contract and ask questions so you fully understand what you’re committing to – and, importantly, how long for.

Check your cancellation rights

If you’re signing up to a gym, find out if there are options to pause your membership or switch locations if you move away, lose your job or can’t train because of injury.

Find out about cooling off periods

You may find you have a period to get your money back if you change your mind.

However, you might not qualify for a refund if you start using a service straight away.

Follow the cancellation policy

Don’t stop your payment without checking what else is required first – otherwise your subscription may not be cancelled and you could be liable for any missed payments.

Challenge unfair T&Cs

People might have different views about what counts as an unfair company policy.

But if you’re finding it tough or have to give a long period of notice to cancel a subscription, contact the supplier’s customer services department. If this fails consider going to the supplier’s trade or complaints body or reporting it to Trading Standards.

Save the evidence

Keep a copy of any adverts or special offers that attracted you to a particular subscription.

Make sure that you are promised these features in writing, either in your contract or in an email.