NEWARK - As consumers focus on post-holiday fitness and getting into better shape, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today reminds everyone that health club operators are legally required to make certain disclosures to prospective members, as well as meet specified operating criteria.
"We hope everyone fulfills a New Year's resolution to improve their health and want to remind anyone thinking about joining a health club to know their rights before signing a membership contract and making any payment," said Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. "Health clubs are required to register with our Regulated Business Section and our investigators check for compliance with our consumer protection regulations by health club operators."
Those shopping for a health club should be aware of the following:
- Clubs must be registered and display the State-issued registration and State-issued statement of registration in a prominent location where consumers can see them;
- Consumers are entitled to a written contract that lists the consumer's total payment obligation (fees+monthly payments+tax) on the first page of the contract;
- The contract must include a 'Notice to Customer' informing the consumer of his/her right to cancel the contract within three days after receiving a copy of the contract;
- If a health club facility is closed 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 that during which the facility is closed or to receive a prorated refund of the amount paid by the buyer under the contract; and
- A club must allow cancellation of the contract by the consumer and provide a prorated refund if the consumer moves more than 25 miles from the health club or an affiliated health club offering the same or similar services, and may charge a fee not to exceed 10% of the total contract price.
Kanefsky noted that the Division received more than 70 consumer complaints about health clubs last year.
To learn more about consumers' rights before signing a membership agreement, please read the "Health Clubs" Consumer Brief.
Before joining a health club, check the Division's website and verify that the club is registered. The list of currently registered health clubs can be viewed online here.
For more information, or to file a complaint, contact the Division via its web site, NJConsumerAffairs.gov or call 1-800-242-5846 (toll-free within N.J.) or 973-504-6200.
Please note that "health clubs" do not include:
- Basic aerobic and "dance exercise" centers operating on a scheduled lesson or hourly basis;
- Children's gyms (commercial play-spaces with trampolines and other gymnastic equipment) operating on a scheduled lesson or hourly basis;
- Martial arts schools (for example, karate institutes);
- Dancing schools (for example, ballet and jazz);
- Gymnastic schools operating on a scheduled lesson or hourly basis;
- Tanning salons ("sun studios");
- Weight control centers;
- Metabolic and nutrition centers;
- Other single sport centers (for example, swim clubs, tennis clubs and racquetball clubs); and
- Health club facilities located in hotels, motels, condominiums, cooperatives, corporate offices or other business facilities and which charge fees comparable to other for-profit health clubs if usage is limited to guests, residents or employees at no charge or at nominal cost.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
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