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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
May 5, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General
Division of Consumer Affairs
- Kimberly Ricketts, Acting Director

 

Genene Morris
Jeff Lamm
973-504-6327

 

Attorney General Harvey and Acting Director Ricketts Offer Tips for Joining Gyms During “Physical Fitness Month”

NEWARK — May is “Physical Fitness Month” and if you’re one of the many people thinking about joining a gym or health club to get in shape, Attorney General Peter C. Harvey and New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Kimberly Ricketts are asking that you use caution when deciding where to join.

“While most people have a trouble-free experience at health clubs, the Division of Consumer Affairs routinely hears complaints from consumers about clubs that, among other things, close suddenly after collecting membership dues, automatically renew memberships without permission from clients, or unlawfully refuse to give refunds,” Attorney General Harvey said. “There are some simple precautions that we urge people to take when choosing a club.”

“It makes sense that people would look at ‘Physical Fitness Month’ as a good time to start trimming their waistlines,” Acting Director Ricketts said. “But as you begin your quest to get fit, make sure the health club you’re joining is in good shape. Ask the right questions before you pay your hard-earned money.”

New Jersey law requires gyms or other health clubs that devote more than 40 percent of their space to health club services to register with the Consumer Affairs’ Regulated Business Section every two years. In addition, clubs that offer memberships longer than three months or that receive payments in advance for more than three months must also post a security bond or letter of credit with Consumer Affairs to ensure that money is available to refund consumers should the club go out of business.

Attorney General Harvey and Acting Director Ricketts are offering the following tips for consumers to heed when selecting which health club to join:

  • Ask a friend or relative to recommend a good health club. Visit the club during the time you expect to use its facilities. Check to see if the equipment is in working order and the facility is clean. If possible, talk with some of the members to find out what they think about the club.
  • Check whether the hours are restricted.
  • Ask to see the health club’s registration and then call Consumer Affairs’ Regulated Business Section at 973-504-6261 to find out if the registration is current and the club’s complaint history.
  • Be cautious about paying for more than three months’ membership in advance. The more money you pay in advance, the more money you risk losing should the club go out of business before your membership expires. Do not make a down payment exceeding 25 percent of the total contract price before the health club has opened for business.
  • The law says that a member can’t be obligated to more than a three-year contract. If you decide to sign up for anything longer than a three-month membership, call Consumer Affairs to find out if the health club has posted a security bond or letter of credit as required by law and if the bond is current.
  • If there are several health clubs with the same name in your area, find out whether all locations will honor your membership.
  • Never be pressured into signing a membership contract. Ask for a blank contract so you can take it home and review it. Make sure you read the membership contract carefully before signing it. The terms of the contract dictate exactly what you are entitled to, but often the contract is confusing. Ask questions about terms and conditions you don’t understand.
  • Look for a cancellation clause in the contract. New Jersey law allows you to cancel the contract in the following instances: within three operating days after signing the contract; upon death or permanent disability; and upon moving more than 25 miles from the health club, or an affiliate health club.
  • When you do finally sign the contract, get a copy. You’re entitled to it by law.
  • If a health club closes for a period longer than 30 days through no fault of the buyer of the health club services contract, the buyer is entitled to either extend the contract for a period equal to the time period during which the facility was closed or to receive a prorated refund of the amount paid by the buyer under the contract.
  • Remember that lifetime membership refers to the life of the club, not yours.

To file a complaint against a health club, call Consumer Affairs’ Regulated Business Section at 973-504-6261 or log onto www.NJConsumerAffairs.com to get a complaint form.

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