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Boston Businesses Face Investigation by Consumer Cops

The I -team of the local CBS affiliate reported today that Massachusetts state regulators Office of Consumer Affairs have been dispatched to check on local health clubs' compliance with consumer disclosures. More specifically, the regulations require that consumers be advised of their right to cancel.

Massachusetts General Laws c. 93 sec. 81 provides:

"Every contract for health club services shall provide clearly and conspicuously in writing that such contract may be cancelled within three business days after the date of receipt by the buyer of a copy of the written contract or written receipt indicating the buyer's payment for health club services. The contract for health club services shall contain the following written notice in at least ten point bold type:

'CONSUMER'S RIGHT TO CANCELLATION. YOU MAY CANCEL THIS CONTRACT WITHOUT ANY PENALTY OR FURTHER OBLIGATION BY CAUSING A WRITTEN NOTICE OF YOUR CANCELLATION TO BE DELIVERED IN PERSON OR POSTMARKED BY CERTIFIED OR REGISTERED UNITED

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STATES MAIL WITHIN THREE (3) BUSINESS DAYS OF THE DATE OF THIS CONTRACT OR THE DATE OF YOUR RECEIPT TO THE ADDRESS SPECIFIED IN THIS CONTRACT.'

The Office of Consumer Counsel Offers the following explanation of the law pertaining to health club memberships:

"The Right To Cancel

By law, the following notice must be clearly written on the contract:

Consumers' Right to Cancellation. You May Cancel This Contract Without Any Penalty or Further Obligation by Causing a Written Notice of Your Cancellation to be Delivered in Person or Postmarked by Certified or Registered United States Mail Within Three (3) Business Days of the Date of This Contract or the Date of Your Receipt to the Address Specified in the Contract.

You may also cancel your health club contract for any of the following reasons:

  • You move your residence or your place of employment more than 25 miles from any health club operated by the seller, or a similar club that will accept your membership;
  • Upon a doctor's order, you cannot physically or medically receive the services because of significant physical or medical disability for a period in excess of three months;
  • In case of your death; or
  • The health club services promised are not available due to:

■failure to open a planned health club or location;

■closing of a health club or location; or,

■substantial change in the operation of a health club or location.

How To Cancel:

Send by certified mail, return-receipt requested, or deliver in person, a written notice of your cancellation. Clearly state that you are canceling the contract, as is your right under M.G.L., c. 93, section 81.

The notice of cancellation must be accompanied by

  • all contract forms;
  • all membership cards;
  • all other documents or evidence of membership; and,
  • reasonable evidence of the reason for the cancellation, if it is beyond the 3 day cooling-off period.

All money must be refunded within 15 days of the club's receipt of your notice of cancellation. However, the club may retain that part of the total contract price proportional to the amount of time that you used the services or facilities prior to cancellation. After cancellation, you are no longer liable for any further obligation under a credit loan agreement which was executed to pay for all or part of the price of the health club contract." See Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation publication "Making Health Clubs Work for You"

Massachusetts businesses need to make certain that they are in compliance with the consumer laws, or they may face fines from regulators and potential civil litigation where willful violations may subject violators to double, or even treble damages plus attorney's fees.

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