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Friday, Jun 28 2013 10:59 PM

ACTION LINE: I canceled membership, but gym keeps billing me

BY BLAIR LOONEY Contributing columnist

Editor's note: Action Line is a weekly column from the Better Business Bureau answering consumers' questions and concerns about money and business issues.

Dear Action Line,

I am writing today with a request for advice and help. I used to be a member of a local gym. I turned my cancellation letter in on March 13, 2013. They have a 30-day cancellation policy.

It is now mid June, and they still charge my credit card every month! I have called. And emailed! They ignore me. What should I do? Should I contact an attorney? Should I contact the police? What should I do?

Dear Consumer,

Joining a health club can be a major purchase and, if you decide to cancel, can be just as major. Make sure you know what the cancellation terms are before you sign to being with. Put your cancellation request in writing. In your case, the gym has continued to charge your account after the cancellation.

So here is what you can do: Contact the gym again, make sure you are dealing with someone in authority. Let him or her know that you have not only cancelled but are now requesting a refund for the charges that occurred after the cancellation.

If the gym is part of a large corporation, contact the corporate office. You can also file a complaint at bbb.org. We will contact the company on your behalf to help you resolve the issue. We provide free services.

You can always consult with an attorney. If you need to find one, check them out with BBB -- www.bbb.org -- and make sure he or she is registered with the California Bar Association, www.calbar.ca.gov.

If you are thinking about joining a gym, here are five questions you should ask yourself BEFORE you sign on the dotted line:

What are the terms of any introductory offers? Gyms often use special introductory offers to lure in new members. Just make sure you understand the terms and what the price will be once the introductory period is over.

Will my membership renew automatically? Many times people who joined a gym didn't realize that their contract would renew automatically and that they would have to take specific steps to cancel their contract.

How can I get out of my contract? Getting out of a gym contract isn't always as easy as getting into one, so make sure you understand what steps you would need to take to cancel your membership.

What happens if I move? Gyms have any number of policies when it comes to how moving will affect your membership. It might depend on how far away you're moving and if it has other locations nearby.

What happens if it goes out of business? Ask the gym to explain what will happen to your money if it suddenly closes.

Five questions to ask yourself when looking at potential gyms/health clubs:

What are my fitness goals? Determining your fitness goals in advance will help you select a facility that is most appropriate for you. If you have a serious health condition, consult with a medical professional.

Is this location convenient? If the gym is across town, you'll be less likely to work out. Choose a fitness club that is convenient to work or home so the location is not a deterrent to getting exercise.

Can I really afford this every month? Monthly gym fees add up and, after any introductory periods are over, the price could jump higher than your budget can handle. Do the math before you join and make sure you can afford a membership.

Am I feeling pressured to join? Do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics to join right away. A reputable gym will give you enough time to read the contract thoroughly, tour the facilities and make an informed decision.

Did I get everything in writing? Read the contract carefully and make sure all verbal promises made by the salesperson are in writing. What matters is the document you sign, so don't just take a salesperson's word for it.

Blair Looney is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 1601 H St., Suite 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301 or info@cencal.bbb.org. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.

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