I live in the UK. A few months ago, I registered at a gym. The employee there told me that I could cancel the subscription at any time. I didn't sign any contract, just gave my information.

Fast forward last month, I asked to cancel my subscription. They responded that "a welcome email was sent to me after my registration containing the terms and conditions of the gym and a 12-month obligation". Since I did not contest that email, I am bound by a contract.

I never received this email and I cannot find such an email anywhere (might had gone in the spam and then deleted, I'll never know). I asked them in writing (registered letter) to provide me of a proof that they sent the email to my account (including the email headers) or any other proof that I entered into a contract with them, but they haven't responded in 2 weeks.

Is what they did legal? For instance, if I send to someone an email saying "you will pay me £x per month for 12 months for this service and this is a binding contract unless you reply to me in 14 days rejecting", is it legally binding?

Can I cancel the payments unilaterally? They don't have any signed or verbal contract. Who has the burden of proving if I received the email or not?

This is not about the money. I am just upset by their business model. The employee clearly told me I would be able to cancel with 1 month notice which he now refuses to have said. Sending at email as a binding contract without verification of receipt is sneaky at the best.

  • Chain gyms are notorious for this behaviour. You could refuse to pay and refer any further correspondence to your lawyer (or reply to school correspondence saying that you will refer it to a lawyer). But that runs a risk of them turning around with the evidence of such an email.
    – user4657
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 18:35
  • @Nij The fact that I asked them, through a registered letter, to provide me the evidence within 10 working days and they haven't, will it count? If they did send the email, then it probably went to my spam folder that is automatically deleted after 30 days.
    – electrique
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


Is this a legally binding contract?

Probably not: see the related question What is a contract and what is required for them to be valid? Generally, silence cannot constitute acceptance: Felthouse v Bindley (1862) 142 ER 1037. However, this doesn't mean that explicit assent or signed contract terms are always necessary – see the Wikipedia article on agreement in English law. Even if a contract has not been formed, accepting a benefit without forming a contract may constitute unjust enrichment. The issue can become very complex if the amount of money involved is large enough to warrant litigation.

Can I cancel the payments unilaterally? Who has the burden of proving if I received the email or not?

As a practical matter, you probably have the power to cancel the payments unilaterally; it depends on how they are made. If the payments are charged to a credit card you can normally issue a chargeback. If you refuse to pay a contractual debt, your creditors bear the onus of proving that a legally enforceable contract was formed in court. Of course, it is unlikely that a gym would sue you over an unpaid membership. They are more likely to make your life difficult by referring the purported debt to a debt collector or credit reporting agency.

  • Thanks for the reply. "referring the purported debt to a debt collector or credit reporting agency" yes, this is something I wouldn't like to happen. It would damage my credit history.
    – electrique
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 12:19
  • @electrique – I can't speak for UK, but in the U.S. it cannot damage your credit rating or appear on a credit report if you timely dispute the debt in writing.
    – feetwet
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 23:28

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