Imagine doing business in a country that enforces a code of conduct specifically for health clubs.

Well, g’day, mate, and welcome to Australia. Queensland, to be exact. Club operators there could soon be under legal obligation to adhere to new business methods.

A discussion paper on the future of Queens-land’s fitness industry recommends a mandatory code of ethics for club operators, according to a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corp. The report quoted Judy Spence, minister of Consumer Affairs in Queensland, as saying that a variety of consumer concerns was the impetus for the code. She explained that most of the complaints her department receives are about gym closures, but that some are about issues such as membership refunds. For example, members who become too sick to work out often don’t receive refunds—even when they have a doctor’s note. Spence believes that they should. Hence, the proposed code.

The code isn’t just about refunds, however. The discussion paper calls for a maximum club membership of one year, a cooling-off period of a week for new members, and minimum standards for club facilities and staff qualifications.

Now, as a club operator in North America, a mandatory code of conduct for the Queensland fitness industry may mean as much to you as, say, Koalas invading Sydney. Sure, it’s interesting, but it only affects Australians.

Granted, decisions down under won’t change your club. Still, as I read the news report, I felt there was something to be learned here. Many of the issues that the code addresses are as relevant in the United States as they are in Australia. So doesn’t it stand to reason that a similar code could be beneficial in America?

Outlawing certain club memberships and setting nationwide expectations for staff qualifications could hurt some businesses. On the other hand, these actions would raise the bar of professionalism in the fitness industry. A visible effort to enforce higher standards of quality and short-term memberships could attract the people who cite poor service and intimidating contracts as excuses for not joining a health club.

What do you think? Is a code of ethics a step in the right direction? Or should the fitness industry be responsible for policing itself? I’d like to hear your opinions. Please send your feedback to jerry_janda@intertec.com.

Best regards,

Jerry Janda
Editor-in-Chief