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State AG's Office Looks Into Capital Fitness Fee

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RALEIGH, N.C. — This week, 40,000 members of Capital Fitness received a letter asking for a $25 fee to be paid immediately.

But, because of complaints from members, the fee is on hold while the state attorney general's office investigates.

"I was angry because they made reference to Hurricane Katrina and to me that has nothing to do with what they're trying to collect from their members," said member Rebecca Reckard.

The letter attributes rising electrical bills in part to fallout from the storm. Capital Fitness merged with Spa Health Clubs in January. There are eight locations in the state -- six in the Triangle.

The Club's CEO said the fee will also help pay for $1.5 million in upgrades.

"Especially for this club, because they haven't done the renovations that were supposed to have been done," said member Kathy Gerard.

The attorney general's office said it has received several complaints.

"We are concerned about it," said spokesperson Noelle Talley from the attorney general's office. "A number of consumers have called us and raised concerns about it and so we're definitely looking into it."

As an assistant attorney general with the state's consumer division, David Elliot investigates complaints about health clubs. He said customers often get into trouble because they don't read contracts closely or sign long-term contracts that they can't get out of.

"If it's unfair or deceptive, if it's misleading consumers, if it's confusing to them, it potentially would be considered an unfair trade practice," Elliot said. "A lot of consumers are thinking about their health and starting a new lifestyle. They make resolutions, they want to lose the holiday pounds and often they end up losing a lot of money."

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