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Many Americans are looking to 2019 to be a year of self-improvement, with the most common resolution being a greater dedication to health and fitness.  If you plan to purchase a gym membership to kick start your new healthy lifestyle, make sure you have all the facts!

In accordance with Massachusetts law, health clubs, (which include health spas, sports clubs, weight control centers, and martial arts schools) must clearly display all of their prices and offers. In addition, they must display a notice stating that customers are entitled to a three-day grace period, during which they can cancel their memberships. Health clubs are legally allowed to charge a fee for membership cancellations outside of the three-day grace period.

However, if you paid money upfront, you may cancel a membership and get your money back, if

  • you move your residence or place of employment more than 25 miles away from any health club operated by the seller or a similar club that will accept your membership;
  • you receive a doctor’s order stating that you cannot physically or medically receive the services because of significant physical or medical disability for more than three months;
  • the health club services that were promised are not available; or
  • in the event of your death.

When signing a contract for a health club, be sure to understand what you are signing! Read the contract carefully, and get any verbal agreements in writing. As you are going through the contract, be aware of the following:

  • Health clubs cannot offer contracts longer than 36 months.
  • You cannot be required to make payments over a period of more than one month past the length of the contract. This means that if you sign a contract for a 12-month membership, the health club cannot require you to make payments for more than 13 months.
  • A contract must include a consumer’s right to cancellation (this must be in your contract and displayed at the facility).
  • You are only required to pay monthly membership fees once per month and fees must be paid in equal intervals.
  • A health club may not require members to pay electronically through automatic billing.
  • It is illegal for a health club to ask members to sign a liability waiver in the event that they injure themselves. Many clubs still ask members to sign a waiver, but it generally is considered void in the event you sue for liability.

  

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Membership

  • Work out locally. If you have to drive more than 15 minutes to workout, the chances of you making it there on a consistent basis may decrease.
  • Make sure the gym meets your needs. Gyms and health clubs vary significantly from each other, with many catering to certain types of gym goers.  If you prefer group classes to cardio, make sure there are class offerings that fit your schedule. If you want to get ready for work after working out, look for gyms that provide showers, towels and/or toiletries.
    • Likewise, if there are facilities you know you will not use at the gym (such as a pool, childcare, group fitness classes), speak to a manager about paying a reduced rate that does not include those amenities.
  • Take advantage of your membership. Ask your gym about any perks, discounts, or specials that might come with your membership, or points to use toward prizes every time you visit the gym. According to Consumer Reports, the end of any month of the year (including January), is a good time to sign-up because some gyms may try to meet end of the month quotas.
  • Check your insurance. Some insurances will reimburse gym members a portion of the membership fee in order to encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle! Call your insurance plan’s member services number or speak with your company’s human resources insurance expert to see if you are eligible for a discount.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s vehicular and customized wheelchair Lemon Laws and Arbitration Programs, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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