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Post date: October 27 1999

Spitzer Secures Refunds For L.i. Health Club Members

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a court ordered judgment against four Nassau County men who continued to collect health club membership dues after their health club had gone out of business.

Judge J. McCaffrey of State Supreme Court in Nassau County has approved an order agreed to by Jim Mathis, Sr., Jim Mathis, Jr., Ron Mathis, and Rich Rozzi, the former owners of World Entertainment referred to as Potentials Health Club in Lawrence.

"Health and fitness clubs remain a topic of a significant number of consumer complaints," Spitzer said. "My office is determined to hold the operators of such clubs accountable for the money they take from consumers for services they can not provide."

Spitzer's office forced Potentials Health Club to pay over $32,000 for refunds to their former customers. It had been alleged in court documents that the health club accepted deposits for new or annual memberships with full knowledge that they intended to cease operations. They also continued to debit some customers' bank accounts for monthly dues after it had closed down in June of 1994.

The former owners have also been barred from owning or operating a health club in New York State for over five years, at which time, the Attorney General's Office is granted the authority to reconsider the prohibition.

Nearly 200 consumers have already filed complaints with Spitzer's Office against Potentials Health Club.

Consumers have until November 8, 1999 to file a complaint and provide supporting documentation to the Attorney General's Office in order to be eligible for a refund. Those interested in doing so are encouraged to contact the consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

Spitzer offered the following tips to consumers when considering a health or fitness club:

  • Compare prices and services at a number of health clubs before making a decision; sometimes the lowest cost fitness facility is not the best deal;
  • Consider the difference in price between paying for the membership up-front or with periodic payments; when choosing an annual lump sum, be sure to ask whether the health club has posted a performance bond with the State to protect these payments if the facility closes down unexpectedly;
  • Beware of a health club that offers lifetime memberships -- State law restricts contracts to 36 months;
  • When considering a health club, be sure to bring a contract home in order to review it carefully; one provision to look out for is the cancellation policy and fees;
  • Make sure all verbal promises made by the salesperson are included in the contract; it is difficult to hold a club to commitments not made in writing;
  • State law allows consumers to cancel contracts if they relocate 25 miles or more from the club, or if a doctor confirms that a significant physical disability will last more than six months; and
  • Remember, a consumer has three days to cancel a contract after signing it!

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Juan Merchan of the Nassau Regional Office.