DeWine suing magazine seller, gyms

Bryan Cohen Mar. 1, 2012, 2:00pm


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced lawsuits on Wednesday against New Beginning Enterprises Inc., a magazine seller, as well as the owner of three Newark-area gyms for alleged consumer violations.

The Youngstown-based New Beginning allegedly failed to deliver magazine subscriptions it sold to Ohio consumers and consumers in other states.

Steven Riffle, the owner of Anytime Women's Fitness, 24hr Fitness Express and 24hr Women's Workout allegedly made multiple Ohio consumer law violations, including moving addresses without notice to consumers and closing gyms without giving prior notice.

New Beginning offers magazine subscriptions through door-to-door sales in Ohio and around the country. DeWine's office and the Better Business Bureau received more than 100 complaints against the business and the BBB has given the company an "F" rating.

"This business sent representatives door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions," DeWine said. "In many cases, consumers paid in cash or by check for the subscriptions, but they never received the magazines. My office worked with the business to try to resolve these issues, but complaints continued to pour in."

New Beginning allegedly sold magazine subscriptions to consumers that never arrived. While the business resolved some consumer complaints through refunds or delivering the subscriptions, some of the complaints allegedly went unresolved.

The lawsuit against New Beginning alleges that the business violated the Home Solicitation Sales Act and the Consumer Sales Practices Act. The business allegedly failed to deliver and failed to honor cancellation notices of consumers. DeWine's office seeks civil penalties, consumer restitution and injunctive relief through the lawsuit.

DeWine's lawsuit against Riffle alleges that several consumers tried to cancel services at one of Riffle's gyms for valid reasons but were unable to do so. In addition, Riffle allegedly made unauthorized charges on the bank accounts of customers for undisclosed fees or fees they had already paid.

"Consumers reported numerous problems with these gyms," DeWine said. "Some consumers were charged more than they expected, and others had problems canceling their contracts. In general, many consumers did not receive what they paid for. Attempts to resolve these issues with the owner out of court have been unsuccessful, leaving us no choice but to file this lawsuit."

Riffle's gyms offered 24 hour access to fitness facilities, classes, child-care services and tanning packages, allegedly requiring members to pay in advance, often for an entire year, to receive the services.

The lawsuit alleges that Steven Riffle, doing business as 24hr Women's Workout, 24hr Fitness Express and Anytime Women's Fitness, violated the Consumer Sales Practices Act and the Prepaid Entertainment Contracts Act. Riffle allegedly failed to provide consumers with proper notice of their three-day right to cancel, misrepresented the services of the business, changed locations without notifying consumers, made unauthorized withdrawals from the bank accounts of consumers and failed to register all fictitious business names with the Ohio Secretary of State. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties and consumer restitution.

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