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Peak Fitness ordered to shape up

Posted January 8, 2009

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— A Superior Court judge on Thursday ordered health-club chain Peak Fitness to change its operating practices in response to consumer complaints.

The state Attorney General's Office negotiated a comprehensive agreement with Peak Fitness, and Judge Howard Manning approved the consent judgment Thursday.

“Many people are making New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or get in shape by joining a gym,” Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement. “We want to make sure that people get what they pay for and that health clubs treat their members fairly.”

Cooper said his office has received about 300 complaints regarding Peak Fitness over the past five years.

Under the agreement, Peak Fitness and its owners will change customer service, contracts and billing practices at all 28 of its health clubs across North Carolina. The company also will reimburse the Attorney General’s Office $30,000 for consumer education and investigative costs.

The changes include the following:

  • A single point of contact will handle all consumer complaints, concerns and questions, and contact information will be clearly posted in all Peak Fitness clubs, on all Peak Fitness Web sites and on all customers’ contracts.
  • Contact information for Peak’s billing company, ABC Financial, will be clearly posted in all Peak Fitness clubs, on all Peak Fitness Web sites and on all customers’ contracts, and a working fax machine will be provided in all Peak Fitness clubs for cancellations and correspondence with Peak Fitness.
  • Appropriate bonds will be purchased and maintained for each health club the company operates in North Carolina. Bonds can be used to pay refunds to members if the club shuts down.
  • Memberships to any club cannot be sold more than 180 days before it will open.
  • The Attorney General’s Office will be notified before the company enters membership contracts for clubs that have yet to open, and the company will purchase a bond of at least $10,000 for the club and give consumers written notice of their extended three-day right to cancel their contracts.
  • The company will give advance notice to gym members and the Attorney General’s Office when a health club will be closed or when members will be transferred to another location.
  • Pro-rated refunds will be given to any customer who purchases or renews a membership to a club that then closes within 90 days.
  • All membership contracts will include a specific time period for the membership measured in years or parts of a year, contain a full statement of consumers’ right to cancel the contract within three days of signing it and contain a full statement of their right to refunds.
  • The company will clearly explain that automatic renewal of memberships is optional.
  • Pro-rated refunds will be paid when members move more than eight miles from the club or more than 30 miles from any Peak Fitness location or are no longer able to use the facilities because of death or disability.
  • The company must honor lifetime contracts purchased prior to 1980 at health clubs now owned by Peak Fitness. Consumers who allowed their lifetime contract to lapse or otherwise entered a replacement contract with Peak in 2008 have 60 days to contact Peak to get their lifetime contract reinstated.

The consent judgment also bars Peak Fitness from making any false or misleading statement to consumers, such as telling members that they can cancel their contracts at any time, that a club will not close or that a new club will open.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been able to recover more than $1 million for hundreds of North Carolinians who were members of health clubs, gyms or dating clubs that shut their doors,” Cooper said. “If your health club closes down unexpectedly, let us know about it.”

Some Knightdale customers of Peak Fitness might also be eligible for refunds, he said. People who purchased memberships at Peak Fitness Knightdale before the club opened and didn’t get a refund as requested can apply to get their money back by contacting the company by e-mail through the PeakFitnessClubs.com Web site or by fax at 704-896-5741.

In a separate case, Cooper said his office recently won refunds for members of a Rocky Mount health club that closed its doors in September.

Fitness Express for Women Only has paid $10,000, which will be used to repay all gym members for the time left on their contracts after the club closed. The Attorney General's Office won an additional $1,400 in consumer refunds from ASF, a third-party billing company that withdrew monthly fees from members’ accounts after Fitness Express shut down.

23 Comments

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  • MOM-2-A-and-M Jan 9, 2009

    Interesting! Next they should look at their training company - Professional Fitness.... I feel for folks that don't have a calculator in their gym bag to check their numbers on contracts before they sign!
    tweettweet
    I agree!! I was flat-out lied to when I signed up with them and it took me a while to finally get it cancelled!!

  • torr10 Jan 9, 2009

    "The consent judgment also bars Peak Fitness from making any false or misleading statement to consumers, such as telling members that they can cancel their contracts at any time, that a club will not close or that a new club will open."

    Why should a judge have to tell someone not to lie? This country is in sad shape....

  • FromClayton Jan 9, 2009

    we were one of the complainers. My brother moved away for school and we wanted to cancle his contract (we told them we only wanted to sign up for a year, and SOMEHOW 2 years was written down). They never would let us cancel it, so finally we cancled the bank account it was being drafted from. Now they just send statements and we just throw them away. We tried, they were unreasonable!

  • BULLDOZER Jan 8, 2009

    Lifetime Fitness is the gold standard, but it's $59 per month. Have had no problems with them, but decided to save money and work out at the house.

  • Vietnam Vet Jan 8, 2009

    Here's an idea...How about all these fitness clubs doing away with contracts entirely and simply allow you to join on a month to month basis!! Oh wait!!! That might make sense...
    They prey on the fact that people join for an extended period and often stop going after a month or two, which is how they make their money...on the folks that don't use the facilities any more.

  • echaze Jan 8, 2009

    Peak Fitness on Falls of Neuse is a dive. The equipment is always in need of repair and the showers are disgusting. The soap dispensers are always low or out. When my contract ends, I am outta here.

  • raldude Jan 8, 2009

    I joined Planet Fitness and have always been happy with them. Never a piece of broken equipment and always clean. The employees are very friendly and keep the facility I go to in tip top shape. All that for 10.00 per month. Couldn't ask for anything more.

  • I agree Jan 8, 2009

    Peak fitness tried to get me to pay cash every time I walked through the door "no contract" and "No receipt'!!!! What does that tell you?! They have poor mngmt and that is imbezzlement!! Shut the crooks down please!!

  • colliedave Jan 8, 2009

    Been a member of Gold's Gym since its Raleigh Athletic Club days. It IS expensive but worth the money. A few years ago A fly-by-night place sent me an offer for $9 a month.

    I was interested in triming expense so I investigated the place. In my trial workout, a good percentage of the equipment was broken and there was mold in the showers. And the $9 per month: for that price, you could come in only Tuesdays and Thursdays and during off peak hours.

  • tweettweet Jan 8, 2009

    Interesting! Next they should look at their training company - Professional Fitness.... I feel for folks that don't have a calculator in their gym bag to check their numbers on contracts before they sign!

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