NASHVILLE – If getting into shape is on your to-do list, make sure your gym membership passes the consumer fitness test before you sign any paperwork. To help consumers with this healthful resolution, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs shares some basic guidelines to consider before committing funds to a gym or health club.
Tennessee’s Health Club Bond Act, like the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of which it is part, is intended to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices. The Bond Act is specifically designed to make health clubs financially responsible to the health club members with whom they contract. State law requires that all health club agreements be in writing, signed by the buyer, designate the date on which the buyer signs the agreement, and include a statement informing buyers that they have a right to cancel the agreements within three days from the date of signing. If you’re already a member of a club and looking to renew, the law says a renewal can happen only after you agree in writing to the renewal at the beginning of the renewal period.
TDCI encourages consumers who are researching a gym membership to consider the following guidelines based on the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act:
- Read the fine print. Know what you’re getting. What are the terms and conditions? How do you terminate and what are the costs?
- Shop around. Compare the services and prices offered by different companies and at various locations.
- Visit. Drop by the health club or spa during the hours you would normally use it; inspect the equipment you would use.
- Try before you buy. Some facilities offer free trial periods to prospective members so they can sample the services and equipment before making a decision.
- Budget. Ask whether there are initiation fees involved or if it costs extra for classes, fitness evaluations, personal training and other special services.
- Ask the right questions. What is the duration of the contract? When and how will you be billed? Is the membership transferable to other business locations? Do they offer discounts for family members, or credits for referring friends? What are your rights if the club is taken over by new management?
- Don’t be hasty. Before you sign a contract, take a copy home with you and read it through – carefully. Make sure you understand every term before you agree.
- Think ahead. As with any other membership, health club contracts can carry hefty cancellation fees. Find out what it will cost you if you terminate the contract prematurely, move to another area or sustain an injury. These details should all be in the contract.
For more consumer tips, or to file a complaint about gym memberships, visit http://www.tn.gov/consumer.