Ed. Note: This demand follows multiple complaints discussed here.
From the DC Attorney General’s Office:
“Attorney General Karl A. Racine, New York AG Tish James, and Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro today demanded Town Sports International, LLC (TSI) stop charging membership dues to gym members during the COVID-19 public health emergency. In the District, TSI’s Washington Sports Club (WSC) facilities are closed as part of the District’s emergency response to the pandemic. While many fitness clubs have provided automatic membership freezes at no cost, TSI has continued to charge District customers for memberships they cannot use. TSI has also continued to charge fees to customers seeking cancellations and membership freezes, and in many cases has refused to honor these requests altogether. In a letter to TSI, the Attorneys General urge the company to freeze membership dues at no cost to consumers and cease imposing fees and conditions on cancellations. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is engaged in active litigation with TSI over allegations that the company violated both consumer protection laws and the terms of a 2016 settlement agreement regarding misleading cancellation policies.
“While many fitness clubs in the District have frozen membership dues during this pandemic, Washington Sports Club is still billing its members and charging fees for account cancellation and freeze requests,” said AG Racine. “I am calling on the parent company to do the right thing: immediately freeze all consumers’ memberships, honor cancellation requests, and stop charging fees during a time that their members cannot legally and healthfully access their facilities. OAG has sued Town Sports International for violating the District’s consumer protection laws in the past, and we are prepared to do so again.”
TSI is based in Florida and is the parent company of New York Sports Club, Boston Sports Club, Philadelphia Sports Club, and Washington Sports Club. The company is one of the largest operators of fitness centers in the country. It operates six locations in the District under the name “Washington Sports Club,” in Columbia Heights, Connecticut Avenue downtown, DuPont Circle, Gallery Place, Georgetown, and Glover Park. The gyms offer both month-to-month and annual membership plans.
In 2016, TSI entered into a settlement with OAG resolving claims that the company violated the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act–which prohibits a variety of deceptive and unlawful business practices–and debt collection laws by misrepresenting its cancellation policies. In the settlement, TSI agreed to change and clearly disclose its cancellation policies, refund consumers who filed complaints about charges after cancelling, and pay $20,000 in penalties and costs from OAG’s investigation. In 2019, OAG sued TSI over allegations that the company had violated the terms of the settlement. Specifically, TSI purportedly misled consumers about the terms of membership agreements, failed to inform them of the gym’s cancellation policies, and continued to charge them even after they attempt to cancel their gym memberships, among other deceptive business practices. The suit is ongoing.
On March 24, Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses in the District–including all gyms and health clubs–as part of an effort to stop the further spread of COVID-19. Many gyms and health clubs in the District have committed to freezing memberships at no-cost until the clubs reopened, and some have even promised to automatically credit consumers for days the clubs were closed. TSI has refused to take these steps. The company has instead continued to charge WSC members for monthly dues and imposed fees and conditions on cancellation and freeze requests even though all clubs are closed.
In their letter, the Attorneys General demand that TSI immediately:
- Automatically freeze memberships at no cost to members and honor cancellation requests without charging any fees or imposing any conditions such as advance notice requirements.
- Clearly and unambiguously communicate these policies to members.
A copy of the letter is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-04/Town-Sports-International-Multistate-Letter.pdf
The letter sent today was co-led by Attorneys General Racine, James, and Shapiro.”