Can I cancel a health club membership?

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Question:

I recently signed a contract with a health club: downpayment of $100 and $56 a month for three years. Later, I realized that I cannot afford to pay $56 a month. The health club says I cannot cancel the contract now and I have to pay the money regardless of whether I use the membership. What can I do?

Answer:

Keep breathing. Now is the time to do the distasteful thing you should have done before signing on that dotted line. Read the contract carefully to find any provision about cancellation or early termination.

Even if you don't see anything in your contract allowing you to cancel, you still might be in luck. Some states have a 3-day "cooling off" period for health club contracts, meaning you can cancel the contract within three days of signing for whatever reason. Even if the 3-day period has passed, you might still be able to cancel if the health club did not provide notice of your 3-day cancellation right. To find out if you have a 3-day right to cancel a health club contract in your state, contact your state consumer protection agency. (To find your state agency, see Nolo's article State Consumer Protection Offices.)

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