If your New Year's resolution is to slim down and exercise more, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin reminds Rhode Islanders to exercise good consumer protection when choosing a health club facility.
"In a rush to follow through on resolutions to get fit and healthy, many consumers don't take the time to ask the right questions or know their rights when choosing a gym, often finding themselves in contracts they can't get out of or paying extra fees for various services," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
In Rhode Island, all health clubs must register with the Office of Attorney General annually (see RIGL 5-50). The law also outlines proper posting of rates, cancellation policies, and rights of consumers.
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.
• 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 the 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.
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 emailing or calling the Consumer Protection Unit at (401) 274-4400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.