AG Gansler's Consumer Protection Division Charges Two Health Clubs for Failure to Register
Laurel, Baltimore City facilities face suspension of sales, civil penalties
MD ( Jan. 27, 2012) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced today that his Consumer Protection Division has filed administrative charges against two Maryland health clubs and their respective owners for not registering with the Office of Attorney General, as required by the Health Club law.
"Marylanders who want to get fit or stay in shape shouldn't have to worry that their hard-earned money could be lost if they belong to an unregistered health club that goes out of business," said Attorney General Gansler. "Ensuring health clubs are registered and bonded is an important function of what our office does to protect consumers."
The Division's Health Club Registration Unit alleges that Body Talk, LLC, in Laurel and its owner, Arnell Tunstall-Richardson, as well as Kassama's Okinawan Karate Studio in Baltimore and its owner, Ontagu-Ibrahima Kassama, failed to register despite multiple warnings that they were required to do so. The charges allege that these facilities and their owners are operating in violation of Maryland's Consumer Protection Act and Health Club law.
The Health Club law provides numerous protections for consumers, including the requirement that health clubs, weight loss centers and self-defense schools post a bond or letter of credit to insure consumers' investments if the facilities collect more than three months' payment in advance or charge an initiation fee of more than $200.
Additionally, health club contracts must include a "Notice of Consumer Rights" that discloses the club's registration number, whether or not it has posted a bond that would protect consumers' advance payments if it were to go out of business, and consumers' cancellation rights.
The administrative charges seek a cease and desist order prohibiting the two health clubs from selling any health club services in Maryland until they comply with the registration requirements of the Health Club law. The Division will also ask that the clubs be ordered to pay civil penalties and costs. Hearings are scheduled for February 22 at the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD, 21202.
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 www.oag.state.md.us/healthclub or by calling (410) 576-6350.