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September 6, 2010

Fitness Clubs raping Consumers

HEALTH - If you have a fitness club membership be careful you're not being raped financially. Recurring payments from your credit card or bank account can add up if you forget about it, forget to USE your gym membership and you signed an one year membership deal.

Extreme Fitness, GoodLife Fitness, Pure Fitness, Premier Fitness, Bang Fitness, Fitness One, etc. They all do it. Signing an one year contract may look like a good deal on paper, but what if you forget to use it during the winter months because you can't be bothered to slog through the snow for 4 months of the year to go to the gym?

First they sucker you in with a trial membership and the next thing you know you're paying $60 to $70 per month ($720 to $840 per year) for a membership you weren't really sure about.

And really that gym membership is really only worth while if you go to the gym either every day or approx 66% of the days in the month. When you're spending $2 per day to have access to that gym it seems rather ridiculous.

Especially when you could be going to free public gyms at community centres, or going to YMCA instead (which is significantly cheaper but has a pool).

And better yet free public services and the YMCA don't charge you twice in one month and make errors on your credit card. So unauthorized charges on your credit card aren't exactly helping you. Its called Credit Card Fraud. You can also cancel easier, without having to pay a cancellation fee.

According to the Better Business Bureau many of these fitness clubs score a F. Extreme Fitness for example has a F because it has 132 complaints filed against it and has failed to respond to 120 of those complaints.

Its become so bad now that the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS) has a Consumer Beware list. So far 2010 they've received 909 written complaints (through snail mail!) about fitness clubs, up 10% compared to the same period in 2009. See http://www.sse.gov.on.ca/mcs/en/Pages/Fitness_Clubs.aspx

ADVICE FOR CONSUMERS

#1. Read the contract. Never sign anything without reading the fine print.

#2. Don’t be rushed. Tell them you'll think about it.

#3. NEVER use pre-authorized credit card payments or debits from a bank account.

#4. Make it clear you're not signing up indefinitely, write that clearly on your contract.

#5. Pay by cash or cheque. Find a gym that takes cash.

#6. If you cancel within 10 days, do it in writing. Check to see if the cancellation goes through. Get that in writing, too.

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