Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

  

January 6, 2012

Attorney General Kelly urges consumers to shop carefully for gym & health club memberships

Gym1-366x244HARRISBURG - Attorney General Linda Kelly today urged consumers to shop carefully for gym and health club memberships and to fully understand their rights regarding membership contracts.

"The start of a new year often inspires consumers to shop for health clubs as they explore ways to improve their general fitness," Kelly said. "Joining a gym can be a positive experience, but it is important for consumers to fully understand their rights and carefully evaluate contracts before they make an expensive long-term commitment."

Kelly explained that consumers have specific rights and protections under the Pennsylvania Health Club Act. 

The act requires clubs and gyms to register with the Attorney General's office if they sell long-term contracts.  It also provides financial protection for consumers if clubs suddenly close and spells out a consumer's rights to cancel contracts or receive refunds in the event of relocation, injury or other special circumstances.

Kelly noted that every year, the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection receives several hundred complaints from consumers regarding health clubs and gyms, most involving struggles over contract cancellations or consumers seeking refunds when clubs suddenly close.

"Disputes over health club contracts can be a frustrating ordeal," Kelly said, "but  understanding your rights and getting answers to some specific questions before you 'sign on the dotted line' can help guide you to a gym and program that best fits your needs."

Kelly explained that Pennsylvania law requires health clubs and gyms to register with the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection office if they sell contracts of three-months or longer. 

Additionally, any health club or gym that sells memberships lasting more than one-year, or clubs that collect more than one-month of payment in advance, must file a letter of credit or bond with the Attorney General's office.  The bond or letter of credit is intended to protect consumers from financial losses if a club closes before their pre-paid memberships have ended.

Kelly said that the state's Health Club Act also allows consumers to cancel their gym or health club contracts in certain situations.  Any health club contract over three months can be cancelled within three business days of signing the contract, allowing a "cooling off period" for consumers to evaluate the contract and determine if it best suits their needs. 

Kelly said that consumers also have the right to cancel health club contracts in other special circumstances:

  • If a club closes for more than 30 days and there is no alternate facility available within 10 miles.
  • If the consumer moves more than 25 miles from the health club and there is no comparable club available within five miles of their new residence.
  • If the consumer sustains an injury, verified by a doctor, which prevents them from using one-third or more of the health club?s equipment for six months or longer.

When considering a health club or gym membership, Kelly suggested that consumers take the following steps:

  • Compare multiple clubs in your area to be certain that their location, equipment, hours, staff and price best suits your schedule and needs.
  • Read all contracts carefully before you sign.
  • Take as much time as you need to evaluate all of your options - do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Understand exactly what your membership includes, along with any additional fees you may be charged for the use of special equipment, facilities, trainers, etc.
  • If you are considering a long-term contract, check to see if the club has registered with the Attorney General's office.
  • If you are pre-paying for a contract, verify that the club has posted the required letter-of-credit or security bond with the Attorney General's Office.
  • Ask for a tour or complimentary visit to help determine if the club suits your needs.
  • Ask current members about their experience.
  • Make sure the club has at least one person trained in C-P-R on the premises at all times.

Kelly encouraged consumers with questions about health clubs or problems with health club memberships to contact the Attorney General?s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-441-2555 or file an online consumer complaint.

Detailed information about consumers' rights related to health club memberships is available on the Attorney General's website.