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My local gym shut its doors on March 16th due to a government decree requiring all non essential services to be closed until further notice. Today (March 18th) I was surprised to find out that the gym charged me for monthly membership, even though the company is unable to render its contractual services.

Am I eligible for a refund? Normally I'd file a chargeback immediately, but I'm not sure if this being a health emergency gives the gym the right to charge for membership while keeping its doors closed.

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    Is monthly membership charged in advance or in arrears? Can't you just stop it "until further notice"? – Greendrake Mar 19 '20 at 6:08
  • @Greendrake in advance. So today's payment grants me access to the gym up until April 18th. This was supposed to be my last month as I've cancelled membership two weeks ago. – JonathanReez Mar 19 '20 at 6:10
  • Did they send an email explaining their policy during the emergency? I would call them up and complain first. – pboss3010 Mar 19 '20 at 12:02
  • You should edit your question to add the clauses that address or might serve as guidance for that type of unusual scenarios. For instance, many contracts such as insurance policies preclude liabilities from "acts of god" not because they follow a religious belief, but to refer to uncontrollable events with massive repercussions. – Iñaki Viggers Mar 19 '20 at 12:41
  • @pboss3010 they're proposing to move the paid for dates to whenever the gym reopens. However I do not agree with this. – JonathanReez Mar 19 '20 at 14:46
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Under current state law, the state of emergency does not clearly change anything. The health club contract law is here: the crucial thing is, you have to read the contract. The law did not anticipate a governmentally-mandated shutdown, but does address the question of cancellations in RCW 19.142.040(7). The two most-relevant conditions are:

(c) If a contract extends for more than one year, the buyer may cancel the contract for any reason upon thirty days' written notice to the health studio;

(d) If the health studio facilities are permanently closed and comparable facilities owned and operated by the seller are not made available within a ten-mile radius of the closed facility;

But, I assume neither is actually applicable (membership is not longer than a year, the closure is not permanent). (8) also requires "Clauses explaining the buyer's right to a refund and relief from future payment obligations after cancellation of the contract" (that is, they have to say what your rights are).

There is nothing illegal about a contract clause that says something like "If the facility is temporarily shut down due to circumstances beyond our control, we will extend your membership (obligation) by the duration of the shut-down". As a general matter of contract law, one party cannot unilaterally modify the term of a contract, unless there is a clause that permits them to do so. State law requires that the contract have a stated duration. So one argument that you could make is that without an escape clause in the contract, they are in government-mandated breech of contract. (But it is highly likely that there is some such clause in the contract). The crucial legal question is, what gives you the right to cancel the contract? If you have such a right, then the law also states the pro-rata refund requirements.

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