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After the holiday season, many people try to get back in shape, but officials are warning consumers about potential gym membership scams.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office received about 140 complaints involving fitness or health club memberships. Top problem areas included cancellation and billing issues. Under Ohio’s Prepaid Entertainment Contracts Act, consumers generally have three business days to cancel a contract for gym memberships and other “health spa services,” martial arts training, dance studio lessons, or social referral services (such as a dating service).
“This is a time when many people are thinking about joining a gym, and that can be a great way to get in shape. We just want consumers to understand what they’re signing up for,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “A little bit of prevention can go a long way.”
DeWine’s tips for avoiding scams include the following:
1. Research the gym. Look for complaints on file with your local attorney general’s office or Better Business Bureau, and check online reviews for feedback from current or past customers. Pay attention to how a business addresses customer complaints.
2. Read contracts carefully. Make sure verbal agreements are put in writing. Otherwise, they are not guaranteed.
3. Watch out for extra fees. Determine the total cost of your membership. Find out if there are any extra fees for services like fitness classes or personal training. Also find out if payments will be withdrawn automatically from your account.
4. Check the cancellation policy. Understand what you would need to do to cancel your contract and how far in advance cancellations must be made. Many contracts renew automatically, so be sure to check the total length of the contract.