Attorney General Gansler: Essex Health Club Owner Charged
Consumer Protection Division charges GRS Fitness for misleading members and collecting prohibited fees
MD ( Aug. 11, 2011) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today announced that his Consumer Protection Division has filed administrative charges against GRS Fitness, LLC and its owner, Bernard P. Caplan, Jr., alleging that they arbitrarily discontinued services that had previously been provided, made false and misleading statements to consumers in regard to their cancellation rights, offered and charged improper fees, attempted to collect debts not owed and failed to post required security.
“Health clubs cannot stop offering the services they've promised and expect their members to continue paying for them,” Attorney General Gansler said. “In Maryland, health clubs cannot deceive consumers about their cancellation rights.”
The charges allege that in 2010, GRS Fitness, LLC, entered into an agreement with a second business, Health Tek Creations, LLC, to take over a health club facility located at 8502 Kelso Drive in Essex. GRS Fitness and Caplan changed the gym's name from Energy Fitness Center to Spunk Fitness Center and, in doing so, removed free weights and heavy lifting equipment from the facility. Despite the significant changes, GRS Fitness, LLC and Caplan refused to allow members to cancel their membership.
GRS Fitness, LLC and Caplan also made false and misleading statements about members' cancellation rights and continued to charge the higher monthly membership fee for Energy Fitness Center services that were no longer provided. As Spunk Fitness, GRS Fitness, LLC and Caplan advertise membership rates as low as $9.99, a significant difference from the rate previously charged to Energy Fitness Center members.
The charges also allege that, in regard to registration, GRS Fitness, LLC and Caplan, have failed to post security in an appropriate form.
The charges request that GRS Fitness, LLC and Caplan, be ordered to cease and desist from selling any health club services until they comply with the registration process, cease and desist from improper billing practices, and pay full restitution of all payments collected in violation of the Consumer Protection Act and Health Club Services law. A pre-hearing conference is scheduled for September 9, 2011, and will be conducted by the Office of Administrative Hearings in Hunt Valley.
Health clubs, self-defense schools and weight loss centers are required to register with the Division's Health Club Registration Unit. Consumers looking to join these facilities are encouraged to check whether the facility is registered at the Attorney General's website, www.oag.state.md.us/healthclub or by calling (410) 576-6350.