Choosing a Health Club

Before signing a health club contract, become an educated consumer and visit or call at least two other health clubs to learn about dues and when they must be paid, hours of operation, variety and frequency of classes and ability to use multiple locations, advises the New York State Attorney General. Do not give in to high pressure sales tactics or feel obligated to sign a contract immediately. Tell the health club representative you need time to think about joining the club and ask for free passes to determine if the club is right for you. Talk to other members.

New York’s Health Club Services Act

The New York State legislature passed the New York Health Club Services Act after finding a number of sales practices and business and financing methods of health clubs resulted in deception and financial hardship to consumers. The act covers contracts for instruction or training in bodybuilding, exercising, weight reduction and figure development, martial arts (including judo, karate and self-defense), or other types of physical training and contracts for health and sports spas and tennis and racquetball clubs.

Health Club Contracts

  • No health club contract can exceed $3,600 per year (excluding tennis and racquet ball facilities);
  • No health club contract can be for a term longer than 36 months;
  • All health club contracts are cancelable within three days of the signing of the contract, and at any time for any of the following reasons: if the health club ceases to offer the services stated in the contract; if the consumer moves 25 miles from any health club operated by the seller; and if upon a doctor’s order, the consumer cannot receive the services as stated in the contract because of significant physical disability for a period in excess of six months. Such notices must appear on all health club contracts. The health club must provide refunds within 15 days of such cancellation.

Health clubs must file a bond or other type of financial security with the Secretary of State for the benefit of consumers who have pre-paid for their memberships in the event the club closes. Clubs must put a notice of this bond in all their contracts and must post this notice in their club. Clubs are exempted from this requirement if they do not offer pre-paid memberships, or if payments do not exceed $150, memberships do not exceed one year and the contract does not contain an automatic renewal provision. Consumers can check to see if a club is bonded by calling (518) 474-4429, faxing (518) 474-3795 or writing the New York State Department of State, Division of Licensing Services, PO BOX 22001,  Albany, N.Y., 12201-2001.

All contracts which do not comply with the act are void and unenforceable. Aggrieved consumers can sue in small claims court where a consumer can receive an amount of not more than three times the actual damages plus reasonable attorney’s fees.