Before you join that gym: Consumer tips from the Ohio AG

Kitty McConnell

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has some tips for New Year's gym membership purchasers. In addition to DeWine's legal tips, remember to brush up on health club etiquette before jumping into that resolution. From today's AG release:

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)-As Ohioans prepare to ring in the New Year, Attorney General Mike DeWine is offering tips for consumers who plan to buy gym memberships in 2014.

"Joining a gym or fitness center can be a great way to improve your health, but it's also important to make good choices as a consumer," Attorney General DeWine said. "Remember to read a contract carefully before signing it and make sure you understand the cancellation policy."

In 2013, the Ohio Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section received approximately 125 complaints involving fitness centers.

The most commonly reported problem involved cancellations, such as consumers who had trouble canceling their memberships or those who said the business continued to charge them after they canceled.

Under Ohio's Prepaid Entertainment Contracts Act, consumers generally have three business days to cancel contracts for gym memberships. If a new facility has not yet opened for business, the consumer's right to cancel extends to seven days after the first service under the contract is available.

Cancellations must be in writing and must be postmarked by midnight of the third business day after the first service is available. Consumers should send the cancellation notice via certified mail, with a return receipt requested, to receive proof the business received the notice.

Attorney General DeWine also offered consumers tips for entering into a membership:

    • Search for complaints with the Ohio Attorney General's Office and Better Business Bureau before signing a contract.
    • Read the contract carefully. Make sure verbal agreements are included in writing.
    • Determine the total cost, including any extra fees for fitness classes or personal training.
    • Find out if payments will be withdrawn or charged automatically.
    • Understand the cancellation policy and whether your contract will renew automatically.
    • Check the length of the contract. It should not exceed three years.
    • Keep a copy of the contract, cancellation notice, and other correspondence for your records.

Consumers who believe they have been treated unfairly should file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General's Office atwww.OhioAttorneyGeneral.govor 800-282-0515.