Groupon services

My sister recently purchased a Groupon voucher for a month of Pilates, and when she went to her first class they said in order to use the voucher she had to sign up to a direct debit plan- but she could cancel the plan before the first payment if she didn’t want to continue. She signed, and then of course didn’t get around to cancelling the membership (you had to go into the studio). They have now charged her a month in advance ($140) plus the first two weeks ($70) so she is out $210 for a membership she doesn’t want.
They are now saying if she wants to cancel it it’s a months notice that she has to give, so they will only be able to refund her the $70. (Why they charged her a month in advance AND two weeks in advance I have no idea).
So she did sign up for the membership- but my question is, is it legal for the studio to make her sign up in order for her to use her voucher? The voucher didn’t have this condition on it and she had already paid, so I don’t see this pressurised tactic as being legal? Can her contract be voided? What rights does she have and where can she go from here? Thanks!

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You have elucidated the crux of the matter.

Not legal advice – A complaint to Groupon for misrepresentation re the debit arrangement as being outside the Groupon deal (check the deal for all the fine print and any asterisks) and formally (in writing/email) requesting a refund from both Groupon and the gym accordingly is probably her first avenue.

If not happy having to sign, why did she sign instead of going back to Groupon for a refund of the voucher? Alternatively signing and immediately cancelling?

Some gyms (regardless of what type) have a reputation for taking advantage and have been “griped” as being hard nosed. When you quit they don’t expect to see you again so they do not care about good will but do care about the dollar in their pocket.

If there is something in the contract that could be considered unfair (google Australian Consumer Law gym unfair contracts) citing and following the ACL requirements might be helpful.

My prognostication is this could be a $210 educational write-off. Groupon might be willing to refund their voucher for unspecified T&C, but since she willingly signed to use the voucher Groupon could take the position that by using the voucher she implicitly accepted those T&C for the direct debit and membership contract.


Sorry to hear about the hassles @emma.shenton, and thanks for the good advice @PhilT. You might also like to read about our research on unfair gym contracts, which unfortunately are a common trap.