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Attorney General Beemer Offers Guide to Consumers Looking for Health Club Memberships

Authored By: Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General

Information

Attorney General Bruce R. Beemer has encouraged Pennsylvanians to carefully examine any contract required by a fitness facility. The beginning of a new year is a time when many Commonwealth residents join gyms or health clubs as they seek to achieve their fitness goals.

The Office of Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection last year received 56 complaints from consumers regarding health clubs and gyms. Most complaints involved issues related to contract cancellations or consumers seeking refunds when clubs suddenly closed.

 “A membership to a fitness facility is no different from any other contract,” Attorney General Beemer said. “It is important for consumers to carefully read the contract and know their rights.”

In Pennsylvania, consumers have specific protections under the state's Health Club Act, which are:

  • Health clubs and gyms are required to register with the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection if they sell contracts of more than three months.

  • 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 its pre-paid memberships have ended.

Consumers have the right to cancel health club contracts in special circumstances, such as:

  • 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.

  • 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 to which to transfer the contract within five miles of that person's new residence.

  • If the consumer suffers an injury, verified by a doctor, which prevents that person from using one-third or more of the health club’s equipment for six months or longer.

Attorney General Beemer also provided the following tips for consumers:

  • Compare several gyms in your area to be certain that the location, equipment, hours, staff and price best suit your schedule and needs.

  • Take advantage of tours and complimentary visits before signing a contract.

  • Carefully read the contract you are signing. Take as much time as you need and do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics.

  • Pay close attention to the details of how to cancel a membership.

  • Be mindful that some fitness centers may offer free trial memberships that can have hidden stipulations in the fine print.

  • Ensure that any contract over three months in length is in writing and gives the consumer a right to cancel after three days.

  • Understand 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 contact, check to make sure 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.

  • Speak with current members to learn their opinions of a specific gym.

For more information about the Pennsylvania Health Club Act or gym contracts, contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555 or visit www.attorneygeneral.gov.


Original Press Release