Is Getting Fit One of Your New Year’s Resolutions?
Know the rules on Health Club Memberships
HARTFORD, January 13 – If your plans for 2015 include a commitment to improve your health and fitness, the Department of Consumer Protection has suggestions to help ensure that your positive new venture doesn’t result in financial injury.
“There will be tradeoffs when choosing a club that’s right for you, so visit several and weigh your preferences and expenses before signing on the dotted line,” Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris said today. “Consumers shopping for a fitness club need to be especially wary of advertised prices and offers that seem too good to be true.”
Common issues are advertisements of a specific, low “no contract” fee -- which actually requires substantial enrollment and other recurring fees in order to obtain the low advertised rate, in some cases ten times the advertised cost.
“When a club heavily promotes a low monthly fee, there could be strings attached,” Harris said. “Be sure to ask questions to avoid being drawn into an overpriced commitment.”
Issues to consider when shopping for a fitness club include:
Is the club convenient to home and/or work? Travel time can add to your costs and subtract from your motivation.
Visit the club at the time of day you would normally use it. Take note of parking, how crowded the locker room/fitness center/swimming pool is. Is the fitness class you want to take already overflowing? See if the class schedule has several options for you to participate in during the time you plan to be at the club.
Check to see that the club is clean and well-maintained -- lavatories, pool areas, and locker room. Check the condition of the equipment -- several “out of service” machines could indicate a lack of attention to equipment maintenance.
Notice how club employees are interacting with members. Check that an adequate number of employees are available and helpful to members.
Ask about trial periods when you can sample the services and equipment for free.
Speak to other members about their experience at the club.
“You also have specific rights when entering into a health club contract, so be aware of these in advance,” Harris said.
Connecticut consumers have the right to cancel within three business days of signing a membership contract with a health club. You also have a right to cancel the contract and receive a pro-rated refund if the club moves or closes down, if you become disabled, or if you move more than 25 miles away from the facility.
If your health club closes and you cannot get a pro-rated refund on your payments, file a written complaint with the Department of Consumer Protection. The Department administers a Health Club Guaranty Fund, expressly for the purpose of helping consumers who lose money when a licensed health club shuts its doors. More information is available at this link.
The Department of Consumer Protection licenses Connecticut health clubs, health spas, fitness clubs, sports clubs, tennis clubs, figure salons, self-defense schools, golf and tennis clubs, racquetball courts and platform tennis clubs. Consumers with questions or concerns about health clubs can contact the Department at 1-800-842-2649.