CONSUMER ALERT: RESOLVE TO JOIN THE RIGHT HEALTH CLUB

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January 02, 2014

LITTLE ROCK – One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. That is evident each January as crowds converge on fitness centers looking to work off pounds that may have been put on during the holidays.

In order to keep fitness goals on track, consumers seeking to join a gym or health spa should find the one that’s right for them. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert today to assist Arkansans who are considering gym memberships in the new year.

McDaniel’s Consumer Protection Division receives dozens of complaints annually about fitness centers. The complaints usually involve disputes over contract terms or allegations that the health club had misrepresented the services it would provide.

McDaniel urged consumers to read contract terms and pay a visit to any fitness club before agreeing to a contract.

“This is the time of year where fitness centers advertise discounted rates or offers of free memberships,” McDaniel said. “Those may be short-term promotions that might not pay off in the long term for consumers. It’s best for consumers to visit a gym and find the one where he or she is the most comfortable and can get the most out of a membership.”

Advertisements of “free” club memberships may mean that consumers would be subjected to high-pressure sales pitches, McDaniel said. Or, the initial “free” membership could turn into a costly, long-term contract down the road.

The Attorney General offered this additional advice to consumers:

•  Make sure all representations made by a salesperson are included in a contract.

•  Consider joining a gym for a short time period, even though it may initially cost more than a long-term contract. Though it may cost more each month, it may be worth the money if a membership isn’t being enjoyed or used as planned.

•  Ask for a no-obligation, free trial membership in order to try a gym’s equipment and services before signing a contract.

• Be sure to visit a gym or spa during the hours that would be visited during a membership. Consumers should pay attention to whether the gym is crowded during that time period, and whether the fitness equipment that would be used is well-maintained and in good condition.

• Ask about the qualifications, longevity with the club and work schedules of personal trainers and staff.

•  Know the club’s capacity. Some gyms do not have limits on memberships, which means the gym may be too crowded during peak hours or membership drives.
Arkansas law gives consumers three days upon the signing of a health-club contract to cancel that contract at any time and with no obligation. In addition, state law provides that a consumer may cancel health-club contracts at any time if the consumer becomes permanently disabled or moves more than 50 miles away from one of that same club’s locations.

For more information about this or other consumer issues, visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org, or call the Consumer Protection Division hotline, (800) 482-8982.

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