New York Attorney General Letitia James today led a multistate coalition of attorneys general in sending a letter to the parent company of New York Sports Club (NYSC), demanding immediate changes to the unlawful manner in which NYSC has responded to the mandatory closing of gyms and health clubs in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health crisis.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has plunged our country into an unprecedented public health crisis, businesses have shuttered their doors, leaving millions without a paycheck and scraping to get by,” said Attorney General James. “While the closure of all New York Sports Club facilities may have also placed a strain on the company, its financial straits do not relieve NYSC of its obligation to follow the law. New Yorkers have enough to worry about and should not be forced to pay for services NYSC is no longer providing. If NYSC refuses to do the right thing voluntarily, I will not hesitate to take every legal step necessary to protect New Yorkers from NYSC’s unlawful conduct and get their money back.”
On March 16, 2020, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered all health clubs to close in an effort to stop the further spread of COVID-19. The vast majority of gyms and health clubs in New York responded by committing to freezing memberships at no cost until the clubs reopened, some going even further by promising to automatically credit consumers for days the clubs were closed. NYSC has refused to do the same, and has instead continued to charge membership dues and refused to honor cancellation requests — imposing fees and conditions on cancellation and freeze requests even though all clubs are closed.
The letter sent by Attorney General James and a coalition including the attorneys general of Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia to Town Sports International Holdings — the parent company of NYSC, Philadelphia Sports Club, and Washington Sports Club, among other health and fitness subsidiaries — demands that the clubs immediately implement a membership freeze at no cost to members and honor cancellation requests without charging any fees or imposing any conditions (such as advance notice requirements). The letter further demands that the clubs clearly and unambiguously communicate these policies to members. As described in the letter, NYSC’s conduct violates New York’s Health Club Services law, as well as New York’s consumer protection statutes.
The Office of the Attorney General urges all NYSC members who have been unlawfully charged dues or fees by NYSC to file a complaint with the office’s Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau here.
Additionally, NYSC members whose dues are automatically deducted from a bank account or credit card are encouraged to contact their financial institution to stop such automatic payments. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has published guidance on how consumers can do this on its website here.
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.