Pennsylvania Attorney General Jerry Pappert announced that his Bureau of Consumer Protection has obtained refunds or credits for consumers who were reportedly unable to use their pre-paid health club memberships at three Southeastern Pennsylvania fitness centers all under the same ownership. Pappert’s Office will mail refund or claim forms to all former club members to fill out and return within 30 days.
Pappert said consumers were denied refunds or the opportunity to extend their memberships for the amount of time that the facilities were inaccessible. One fitness center located in Montgomery County, shut down several weeks for repairs, a second also located in Montgomery County closed permanently and the third, to be built in Bucks County, failed to open after numerous construction delays.
Consent agreements have been filed in Commonwealth Court resolving three separate 2003 lawsuits that the Commonwealth filed against: Ricardo Barclay, last known address 1210 Malinda Rd., Oreland, Montgomery County; Ricardo Barclay and Glenside Total Fitness Company Inc., doing business as Glenside Total Fitness and Dance, 2832 Mt. Carmel Ave., North Hills, Montgomery County; and Ricardo Barclay and Ivy Hill Health and Fitness Inc., doing business as Philly Total Fitness and Dance, 1331 Ivy Hill Road, Wyndmoor, Montgomery County.
Barclay also owns Bensalem Total Fitness and Dance located at 2335 Neshaminy Blvd., Bensalem, Bucks County. The lawsuits accused the defendants of violating Pennsylvania’s Health Club Act, Consumer Protection Law and Fictitious Names Act.
According to investigators, consumers with pre-paid memberships were unable to use the Glenside Total Fitness and Dance center for four weeks while it reportedly conducted electrical repairs. Club members said they were not refunded for the time the gym was closed.
At the Bensalem Total Fitness and Dance facility Barclay sold pre-paid memberships prior to opening the club and accepted approximately $119 up-front from approximately 1,000 consumers interested in joining for one year. More than 150 consumers filed formal complaints with the Attorney General’s Office after the scheduled opening was delayed several times and the defendant promised but failed to refund the membership fees.
In addition, consumers who had memberships at the Philly Fitness and Dance center filed complaints after the club permanently closed without refunding or crediting the remaining time on their long-term membership contracts.
Investigators also reportedly found that the defendants: failed to register the Bensalem club with the Office of Attorney General prior to advertising or selling memberships; failed to obtain a bond or letter of credit prior to accepting advanced payments for contracts longer than three months, and failed to provide consumers with a contract that explained their rights if the club failed to open on a specific date.
Pappert said in the legal actions against Barclay, Glenside Total Fitness and Dance and Philly Total Fitness and Dance, the defendants were also accused of failing to register the health clubs with the Office of Attorney General and failing to obtain a bond or letter of credit prior to accepting payment in advance from consumers that purchased membership contracts exceeding three months.
“Our legal action provides health club members from all three facilities with various options,” Pappert said. “Consumers who wish to cancel their memberships will receive refunds for the unused portion of their contracts. Those who belong to the former Glenside gym have the option to finish out their contracts at that facility, now under new ownership as Capital Fitness. Former members of Philly Total Fitness and Dance have the option to carry over their pre-paid memberships to Capital Fitness approximately two miles away.”
Under the terms of the separate consent agreements the defendants are required to:
– Cease operating in violation of the laws applicable in the case.
– Pay $50,000 in restitution to consumers who pre-paid to join the Bensalem gym, plus pay any additional restitution to those who come forward with proof that they are entitled to membership refunds.
– Pay refunds for the unused portion of consumers’ memberships upon request.
– Pay $6,000 in civil penalties and investigation costs.
– Register any future health clubs with the state as required under law.
– Provide future health club contracts that include all the required disclosures for refunds, cancellations, membership terms, legal remedies and other consumer rights available.
Pappert said his office will mail refund forms to consumers who signed pre-paid contracts for memberships at Bensalem Total Fitness and Dance. To obtain reimbursement, the forms must be filled out and returned to the Attorney General’s Office.
Pappert’s Office will also mail refund forms to consumers who had existing memberships at Philly Total Fitness and Dance at the time it closed in September 2003. The former gym members will have the option of receiving a refund for the unused portion of their memberships or have the remaining time on their contracts honored at the Capital Fitness facility. Consumers must select one of the two options and return the form within 30 days.
Consumers who have not been contacted by Pappert’s Office and who suspect they are entitled to a refund should obtain a complaint form by calling 1-800-441-2555 or visit the Web site at www.attorneygeneral.gov to file a complaint electronically.
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