How to Protect Yourself: Health and Fitness StudiosSource: The Florida Attorney General's Office
Joining a health or fitness studio generally involves signing a membership contract and paying monthly dues or fees. Before signing a contract with a health or fitness studio, consider the following:
Know your rights.
In the past, some studios went out of business after collecting thousands of dollars in prepaid membership dues. Now, Florida law requires most health studios to register with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and to post a bond for a limited time. This bond can be used to repay consumers whose health studios go out of business and do not provide an alternate facility of equal quality within 5 miles. If the studio offers long-term memberships, the following must be included in the contracts:
- Disclosure that the contract can be cancelled by giving written notice within 3 business days, excluding weekends and legal holidays;
- A provision that if a member dies or becomes physically unable to use the facility, the contract can be cancelled and a refund issued for the unused time;
- Disclosure that the contract may not obligate the consumer for a period longer than 3 years, though it may provide for annual renewal; and
- Disclosure advising the buyer of the risks of paying for more than 1 month in advance if the studio is not required to post a bond.
Health studios must post their proof of registration certificate provided by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services prominently at the registration or front desk and include the registration number in all printed advertisements, contracts and publications.
Consider the contract carefully before signing.
Take the time to think over the contract. Ensure that all promises made by the salesperson are stated in the contract itself. Understand what will be due at signing as well as what will be due each month. Understand what your cancellation and refund rights are and any costs associated with cancellation.
File a complaint.
If you wish to file a complaint against a health or fitness studio, you may do so by contacting the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services online at www.800helpfla.com or by phone at 1-800-HELP-FLA. Additionally, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online at www.myfloridalegal.com or by phone at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.
You may also file a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which acts as the State's consumer complaint clearinghouse, at www.floridaconsumerhelp.com.