New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that she has secured commitments from the parent company of New York Sports Clubs (NYSC) and Lucille Roberts to institute a number of policy changes that will provide economic relief to members who were charged dues over the last six weeks, despite a state order that shut down all health clubs and gyms on March 16, 2020 to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Both NYSC and Lucille Roberts have already followed through on a demand by Attorney General James to automatically freeze memberships at no cost to members, and have now pledged to credit members for time the gym is closed, allow members to electronically cancel memberships without penalties or conditions, and resolve all complaints filed with the Office of the Attorney General.
“This is putting money back in the pockets of New Yorkers who were being illegally charged for unusable gym memberships,” said Attorney General James. “The commitments we secured from New York Sports Clubs and Lucille Roberts will ensure that members will not be left paying the bill and lifting the weight for NYSC’s financial straits as long as the gyms remain closed. We hope these automatic payment freezes and credits will provide New Yorkers with financial relief, and we will continue to monitor the company to ensure they comply with every commitment made. We urge all New Yorkers to continue filing complaints with our office against companies seeking to take advantage of or unlawfully profit off the coronavirus public health crisis.”
When Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all gyms and health clubs in New York closed last month, the vast majority responded by freezing memberships at no cost until the clubs reopened, some going even further by promising to automatically credit or refund consumers for days the clubs were closed. NYSC refused to do the same and, instead, continued to charge membership dues — either refusing to honor cancellation and freeze requests or imposing onerous fees and conditions on such requests, even though all clubs were shut down.
Last month, Attorney General James led a multistate coalition, which also included the attorneys general of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia, in opening an investigation into the billing practices of Town Sports International Holdings, Inc. (TSI) — the parent company of New York Sports Clubs, Lucille Roberts, Philadelphia Sports Clubs, and Washington Sports Clubs, among other health and fitness subsidiaries. On April 03, 2020, Attorney General James and the coalition sent TSI a letter demanding immediate changes to its policies, including demanding that TSI implement an automatic and free membership freeze.
Following extensive negotiations between TSI and the states, TSI has agreed to:
- Automatically freeze all New York Sports Clubs and Lucille Roberts memberships, effective as of April 08, 2020, at no cost to members;
- Issue credits to members for dues and fees paid for cancellation or freezing of accounts after March 16, 2020, when New York’s executive order directing the closure of health clubs first went into effect;
- Honor all cancellation requests submitted by April 30, 2020, without charging cancellation fees or requiring advance notice; and
- Contact all consumers who filed complaints with the Office of the Attorney General to resolve those individual complaints.
The states will continue their investigation to ensure TSI honors its commitments and abides by New York’s Health Club Services law and New York’s consumer protection statutes, and to also ensure that the company provides further updates when they become available.
The Office of the Attorney General urges all New Yorkers to remain vigilant of companies seeking to take advantage of the COVID-19 public health crisis, and to file a complaint with the office’s Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau if any company violates the law.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Christopher L. McCall, Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine, and Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia — all of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau. The Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Christopher D’Angelo and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
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