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Old 14.10.2009, 19:26
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Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

Hi All

Can anyone please offer some help and advise on consumer law with regards to a gym membership I made last year.

In July 2008 I joined the gym in Zurich Hauptbahnhoff and paid for 1 year. I was going for a while but in March 2009 I stopped. My membership ran out in July 2009 and so I did not bother going anymore. On the 30th September 2009 however I received a bill from them to pay for another year. My wife called and said that I did not want to go as I no longer work in Zurich but they said that I was supposed to cancel my membership in writing giving one months notice. My wife said that I only joined for a year but apparently they will automatically renew this if I did not write 1 months cancellation notice. My wife apologised and explained that my german was not perfect and so I did not understand this clause but they said that they will probably charge me for the 3 months and a fine. If they do this then it may be cheaper for me to pay the year and claim half from my health insurance as they cover gym membership but I don´t want to do this.

I know that if it´s written in the T & C then I am legally oblieged to write one month notice but I hate it when companies automatically renew contracts as I don´t always remember who I have made this agreement with and for when. I believe that if I wanted to renew the membership then I would ask for it.

Anyway does anyone know if the gym also has some certain responsibilites like reminding me that my membership is about to expire and it will be renewed if I do not cancel or can they just leave it expire and renew it without sending a reminder? Is automatic renewal legal? If it is then it bloody shouldn´t be :-)

Is there any law that I can use to not receive such a hefty bill for a gym I don´t want to go to?

Thanks for any help and advise you can give.

Cheers

Chris
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Old 14.10.2009, 19:30
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

Welcome to Switzerland, a land of cartels and consumer unfriendly contracts...
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Old 14.10.2009, 20:11
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

Since you no longer live in Zürich I think you could claim that it is "unzumutbar" for you to maintain your membership and thus get out of it that way. Double check the T&C, it may even have a clause that stipluates that this is a way to cancel the contract.

In any case, I think that the 3 months that they are offering you would be difficult to dispute if it came up for a judge as normal "praxis" in Switzerland is 3 months to cancel a contract if nothing is agreed.

As much as we all dislike the automatic renewals, I think we all need to remember every time we sign a contract that this is the standard way of doing contracts here! So better assume that _all_ contracts are like that and you won't end up in silly situations.
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Old 14.10.2009, 20:19
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

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As much as we all dislike the automatic renewals, I think we all need to remember every time we sign a contract that this is the standard way of doing contracts here! So better assume that _all_ contracts are like that and you won't end up in silly situations.
100% in agreement with you Tilia and of course, when signing a contract in German, it makes a lot of sense to get someone to go over it with you so that you know what you have signed. Nothing sounds dumber than going back and having to say that you didn't understand what you signed....
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Old 14.10.2009, 20:49
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

The last time I renewed my insurance, the agent said it wasn't possible to change the contract to non-renewable (which sounded dodgy, but my German wasn't good enough to argue - it depresses me how powerless I feel in this country sometimes).

I was wondering about writing a cancellation letter at the same time as signing my next insurance renewal. That is giving 1 year (or 5 years) notice. Would this work? Is there a maximum notice period?
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Old 14.10.2009, 21:46
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

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The last time I renewed my insurance, the agent said it wasn't possible to change the contract to non-renewable (which sounded dodgy, but my German wasn't good enough to argue - it depresses me how powerless I feel in this country sometimes).

I was wondering about writing a cancellation letter at the same time as signing my next insurance renewal. That is giving 1 year (or 5 years) notice. Would this work? Is there a maximum notice period?
Be sure to send the letter registered and retain proof of posting and delivery to recipient.

Swiss Post have an internet track and trace service. I print the trace and file it. Would be useful if the recipient repudiates later.
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Old 14.10.2009, 21:51
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

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Since you no longer live in Zürich I think you could claim that it is "unzumutbar" for you to maintain your membership and thus get out of it that way. Double check the T&C, it may even have a clause that stipluates that this is a way to cancel the contract.

In any case, I think that the 3 months that they are offering you would be difficult to dispute if it came up for a judge as normal "praxis" in Switzerland is 3 months to cancel a contract if nothing is agreed.

As much as we all dislike the automatic renewals, I think we all need to remember every time we sign a contract that this is the standard way of doing contracts here! So better assume that _all_ contracts are like that and you won't end up in silly situations.
Consumer organizations are promoting awareness of this unfriendly practice. Slowly, the situation is improving. Many gyms have now dropped auto renewal from their contracts.
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Old 15.10.2009, 10:32
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

Here learneth you the lesson: cancel as soon as you sign the contract. Same goes for mobile phone contracts
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Old 15.10.2009, 10:40
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

and insurance contracts, and remember now is the time to review your health insurance for next year especially if your premiums have increased (more than likely).
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Old 15.10.2009, 11:43
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

When you sign any contract here, just write below your name the validity of the contract and "no automatic renewal" this way it is clear. Any case towards end of contract they will begin phoning you to bug you to sign up again !
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Old 15.10.2009, 11:53
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

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and insurance contracts, and remember now is the time to review your health insurance for next year especially if your premiums have increased (more than likely).

...over 8% on average.
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Old 15.10.2009, 12:18
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

It might just be worth pursuing management on this.

I would (based on a similar situation encountered last year with an automatically renewing contract for a service I was not using) appeal to person in charge on the basis of "oh what a silly auslander I've been". This approach is generally far more successful than hinting at any sort of fault/poor communication/criticism on their side. Pride is a huge deal in Switzerland and faces need to be saved!

Failing that you could try appealing to conscience as in "Just putting aside the rules for ein moment, are you really telling me that in good conscience you feel it right to charge me for a service I have not used for x months and have no intention of using when you have already received payment for all those x months that I was not using it". There is a slim chance of this working. Sadly though conscience/common sense do have a history of being outweighed by pure greed thinly disguised as blind rule following in this neck of the woods.

Good luck. On a side note a name and shame section for this type of corporate bullying might be a good thing - to highlight companies and organisations who put greed and blind adherence to the rules before customer service, clarity and good manners.
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Old 15.10.2009, 19:41
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

Hey all

Thanks for the advice and info.

Swissmountainair - I am using the dumb foreigner excuse already ha ha ha. I honestly do not read the T & C in full if it´s in a language I don´t fully understand. My wife is Swiss but I received the contract over a year ago and I honestly didn´t think to ask how do I cancel if the paper I signed said "valid from July 2008 - July 2009". I hate this automatic renewal malarkey and think it should be banned. I would name and shame but I read somewhere on here that I cannot list the company´s so I left a clue instead. The gym is in Hauptbahnhoff and it´s the only one there. Here´s another clue, they could be a cousin to McDonalds
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Old 01.12.2009, 21:54
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

Hi Chriswelshman

Know it's a while since your original post but just found myself in the same position and struggling for a way out. How did you get on in the end?
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Old 04.12.2009, 15:37
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

Garage? Car? And what happened with the gym?


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Hi Maria

I wrote to the garage owner telling him that many months had past and he missed his chance to inform me that he was not happy therefore I am no longer liable for the car and I consider the case closed.




Chris
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Old 04.12.2009, 16:07
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

Oops wrong case ha ha ha. I didn´t read what my original post was and I had major issues with a car dealer.

In this case the gym charged me for the months that I was over due rather than the full year. I think I paid around 280chf for the 3 months. I wanted to challenge this as it´s not my fault that they took 3 months to chase this up but then again it is my fault that I did not cancel so I decided to pay it and learn from my mistake.

Cheers

Chris

Last edited by Chriswelshman; 04.12.2009 at 16:27.
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Old 05.12.2009, 17:49
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Re: Consumer law on automatic renewal of contracts

Is there any kind of consumer protection agency or better business bureau in Switzerland?

Last edited by flavio; 05.12.2009 at 18:36.
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