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ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Avoid Sweating over Gym Contracts

LITTLE ROCK – Getting in shape is always a top New Year’s Resolution and joining a gym is a popular step in achieving that goal. More than 60 million Americans are members of health clubs and gyms, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. While the decision to join an exercise program or gym can be a pleasant and rewarding experience, sometimes, it’s not.

“Investing in your health is important for your physical and mental wellbeing,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But reading the fine print, getting all sales promises in writing and knowing the cancelation and billing policies are crucial in securing your fiscal wellbeing and avoiding any unfortunate surprises.”

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge addresses some concerns received by her office on poor practices at health clubs, and what to look out for before signing on the dotted line.

• Visit the spa or gym during the hours you would normally attend. Note the condition and cleanliness of the equipment and if the facilities are overcrowded.

• Compare several gyms in the area.

• Ask about trial periods so you can sample the gym without obligation to join.

• Ask about hours of operation and any limits to certain memberships.

• Do instructors and trainers have special qualifications or expertise to best serve its members?

• Ask what the cancellation policy is upfront and the costs of any joining or cancellation fees.

• Consider the form of payment. Remember which bank card or bank account number are on file to make the cancellation process easier.

• Ask about automatic renewal policies and any recurring annual fees.

• If signing a contract for a specific time period, are there extenuating circumstances that would allow breaks in the contract such as injury, illness or moving?

Enticing advertisements can sometimes cross over to deception from highly motivated sales people. If a sales person agrees to special perks, waived fees or price changes, always make sure they are in writing – hard copy and electronically- and approved by the manager. The law requires that a copy of the signed contract be given at the time of joining.

Arkansas law allows buyers to cancel the remaining portion of a health spa contract if the buyer becomes permanently disabled or if the buyer moves more than 50 miles from any location operated by the gym. These laws do not apply to most non-profit gyms such as YMCA.

Finally, before joining a health club, consider contacting the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau to find out if complaints have been filed against the gym.

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