TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Many Floridians want to kick off healthier habits in the new year with memberships to health studios. Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam today provided tips to educate consumers on what to look for when signing a new membership.
“January is an extremely popular time for consumers to join gyms, and I encourage Floridians to do their homework to ensure they get the most out of their memberships,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.
Commissioner Putnam urges consumers to consider the following before signing a membership:
Search the “Business/Complaint Lookup” at FreshFromFlorida.com or call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) to check if complaints were filed about the studio and how they were resolved.
Don’t join the first time you visit. Use the gym first to make sure it meets your needs, then take the contract home and read it thoroughly before signing. Be sure to ask for clarification if you don’t understand something.
It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid long contracts. Shop around to make sure you know what’s included in the membership.
Service fees, such as registration fees, processing or start-up fees, may be required. However, it must be considered a “reasonable and fair service fee,” meaning no more than 10 percent of the contract price.
Use a credit card, debit card or check to pay each month. Setting up an automatic withdrawal from checking accounts may result in problems if there is ever a dispute.
The contract should include a provision for penalty-free cancellation in writing within three days, exclusive of holidays and weekends, of signing a contract.
Under Florida’s Health Studio Act, health studios are required to register with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and to provide a bond or other financial security to protect consumers’ funds if the gym expectantly moves or closes. Additionally, if a gym closes or moves its facilities more than five miles away, it must provide access to an alternate facility of equal quality within five miles of its original location at no additional cost.
For additional information on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, to verify a health studio’s registration status or to file a complaint, contact the department at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352), 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) for Spanish speakers, or visit FreshFromFlorida.com.