Clubs, Weight Loss Centers and Self Defense Schools - Information
joining a health club, weight loss center or self defense school
can be expensive, Maryland law has some provisions to protect consumers
who join these facilities. Here's what you should check out
you pay money to join one:
Is the facility registered with the State, as required by law?
Maryland's Health Club Services Law requires businesses that
sell health club services (health clubs and gyms, weight loss
and self defense schools) to register with the Consumer Protection
Division, except for certain nonprofit, government and academic
facilities. You can check a club's registration status on this
page or by calling (410) 576-6350. A
registered business will fall into one of three categories:
Ask to see the Notice of Consumer Rights.
Every health club, weight loss center or self-defense school contract
must contain a "Notice of Consumer Rights." Facilities
that do not use contracts must provide their customers with a copy
of the Notice or post it prominently in their facility.
- The Notice provided by a bonded or bond-exempt
business must include: the business' registration number, whether
the business is bonded
or bond-exempt, the amount of the bond posted if the business is
bonded, that the consumer may cancel the contract and receive
refund of all monies paid within three days of signing the contact,
the consumer's rights if the business closes for a month or
and the consumer's right to an extension of the contract if the
consumer is disabled for a period of three months or more.
- The Notice provided by a pay-per-day business must include:
the business' registration number, that the business is not required
to carry a bond, that the business does not charge any initiation
or upfront fees, that the business does not require consumers
to purchase more than one day's services at a time and that the
business does not collect payment from consumers prior to the
day services are provided. For examples, see Sample Notices
of Consumer Rights in the column on the left.
Check out the length of membership periods offered.
contract may not be right for you. Many people find they use a
regularly when they first join, but then quit going. Ask whether
a month-to-month or other short-term contract or trial
membership is available.
Can you make monthly payments?
Regardless of the length of your contract, ask if you can
pay monthly. If the club closes you may lose less money. Some clubs collect monthly but may also charge an annual fee.
Is everything you've discussed in your contract?
Don't be pressured into signing a contract when you visit a club.
Take it home and read it over. Make certain you understand all of
the charges and that everything you want is included in the price
you will pay. Also, make certain all promises made by the salesperson
are reflected in the contract. Be sure to keep a copy of the signed
contract and receipts for payments.
6. Can I cancel my contract?
Maryland law, you can cancel a health club contract within three
of signing by giving written notice in person or be
certified mail, return receipt requested. Make sure to keep a copy
of your cancellation letter and the return receipt or get a receipt
verifying your cancellation from the club. You may have other cancellation
rights under your health club contract. Be sure to read over the
contract and make sure you understand any additional cancellation
rights you may have.
to Do if Your Health Club Closes or Changes Ownership
your health club or fitness school closes, there are several things
you will want to do immediately:
your bank or credit card company to stop any automatic payments
and to charge back any payments made for services not received.
Just because the club has closed does not mean it will stop collecting
money from you. However, if the club closes you are not obligated
to continue making those payments.
the club was bonded and if you have paid in advance, notify
the Consumer Protection Division at firstname.lastname@example.org.
the club changes ownership but remains open, ask the new owner
for a contract containing the same terms as the one you have.
Unless the new owner is honoring your old contract, you can't
be required to join the new club. If you cannot get
written confirmation that your old contract will be honored,
contact the Consumer
Division at email@example.com.