For many people, getting fit in the New Year is a top resolution, and that includes joining a health club or gym. However, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin is warning consumers to read the fine print on your gym membership before signing on the dotted line so that you get a good workout…but your wallet does not.
"The New Year is a time for new beginnings and for many of us that includes starting a new fitness plan," said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin. "Health clubs are offering good deals to entice consumers to stick to their New Year's resolutions, but it is important to read the contract carefully so that you don't get any unwanted surprises. The Better Business Bureau reports that in the last 12 months, consumers nationwide filed almost 8,000 complaints with them regarding health clubs, and some of the top issues were trouble cancelling memberships or billing disputes."
Before you sign a contract with a health club or gym, Attorney General Kilmartin offers these tips to make sure you lose weight, not money:
• Research the facility. Check with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) to see if there have been any complaints filed.
• Also, ask family and friends for recommendations.
• Read the entire contract thoroughly. Make sure it lists all fees and services, as well as what will cost extra. Make sure that any promises made by the salesperson are listed in the contract.
• Get the total cost – including enrollment costs and finance charges – in writing.
• Make sure the membership details are clearly outlined: how long the membership lasts, whether it automatically renews and what is the cancellation policy. Make sure the contract also states what will happen if you move or if the health club closes before your membership expires.
• Check how your payments will be made – it could be one lump sum or by month. Although the deal advertised may be a certain amount per month, the gym might automatically charge for six months at a time or more.
• Visit the club on the day and time you plan to use it to see how crowded it will be and if you like the atmosphere and equipment. It the gym seems empty, that may be a red flag.
The Office of Attorney General is the custodian of records for health club registrations in Rhode Island. If you wish to file a complaint against a health club in Rhode Island, you may file a complaint online at www.riag.ri.gov or request a complaint form by calling the Consumer Protection Unit at (401) 274-4400.
About the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit
The Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit investigates and mediates consumer complaints concerning unfair and unlawful business practices and misleading advertising arising out of alleged violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. If groups of people are victimized by a deceptive trade practice, this office may file in the Superior Court a civil investigative demand, which is a formal investigation. In appropriate cases, a lawsuit to stop the illegal business practice may be initiated.
Apart from carrying out its statutory responsibilities, the Unit also provides information and referral services to the general public. Consumers are directed to the appropriate governmental or private agencies for help in answering specialized questions or resolving disputes that are not within the Unit's jurisdiction.
The Consumer Protection Unit is available to speak to community groups on how to prevent being a victim of identity theft and other scams. For more information, please visit www.riag.ri.gov or call 401-274-4400.