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As the Times Square Ball dropped, the clock struck midnight and we ushered in the new year, more than 40 percent of Americans had a New Year’s resolution in mind.  However, if like many Americans your resolution involved weight loss and regular exercise, you may want to read our helpful tips before beginning your gym-searcshutterstock_503658082h.

The process of obtaining a health club membership can be intimidating, and uninformed gym newbies can fall victim to illegal contract provisions. Before you get your New Year’s fitness resolution underway, let’s decipher the fact from the fiction of health club memberships:

1.) Health clubs are required to clearly post their prices and fees.

                                    True

According to Massachusetts state law, health clubs must clearly display all of their courses, prices, discounts, sales, 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.

2.) A health club may require members to pay electronically through automatic billing.

                                    False

Although automatic billing can be a time-saving benefit to consumers and a cost-effective option for businesses, health clubs may not require consumers to pay with electronic fund transfers. If automatic billing is not for you, ask about other payment methods. If you wish to stop an authorized electronic transfer, you must inform your financial institution at least 3 business days before the scheduled date of the transfer.

3.) Health clubs are legally allowed to charge a fee for membership cancellations outside of the three-day grace period.

                                     True  

If you wish to cancel your membership after the three-day cancelation period, you may be required to pay a fee to the health club. You may cancel a membership 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 case of your death.

4.) A health club may ask customers to sign a liability waiver before joining.

                                    False

It is illegal for a health club to ask members to sign a liability waiver in the event that they injure themselves. Yet, many clubs still ask members to sign a waiver. Don’t panic. Even if this waiver is signed, it generally is considered void in court. This means that if you are injured while in a health club, even if you have already signed a waiver, the health club can still be sued for liability.

5.) It is important to read your contract carefully before signing up for a gym membership.

                                     True

It is very important 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.
  • They cannot require 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.
  • Monthly membership fees must be must be paid in equal intervals, and not more frequently than one per month.  

 

If you think a health club has violated state laws, we want to hear from you. Call us on 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. Consumers should also file a complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and with the Better Business Bureau.

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 all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.

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