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Consumer protection officials warn about shady gym memberships after Madison gym closure


MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- The recent unannounced closure of a Madison gym has left its customers empty-handed after buying lifetime memberships.

Now state officials are reminding consumers to be careful when choosing a gym. Consumer protection administrator Sandy Chalmers says state regulations prohibit those lifetime memberships because consumers can get fleeced. "People can pay thousand dollars for a lifetime membership, quote unquote. And then what happens to that money if the fitness center goes under?" Chalmers says gyms need to offer contracts for any long term membership and that you should scrutinize that contract just like any other.

Chalmers says regulations limit the amount of money a club can charge without filing paperwork. "If the fitness center wants more than $100 from you upfront, they're required to have $25,000 worth of security filed with us. And again, that's there to protect the consumer in case the fitness center were to go under."

There are also specific requirements on what a club must tell you when you're signing up. "Fitness club memberships cannot be longer than two years duration, and it has to have an expiration date. So it's very clear to consumers what they're entering into." Chalmers says that contract also needs to talk about what services and equipment are available to you and when, and allow you to cancel without penalty within three days of signing the contract.

You can learn more online at the state's consumer website at http://datcp.wi.gov