Wash. health club to pay $20K civil penalty
SPOKANE, Wash. (Legal Newsline) - Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna announced a consent decree on Wednesday with a Liberty Lake health club that allegedly violated state consumer protection laws.
Physzique allegedly failed to include in their contracts, as is required by state law, notices that the club is not allowed to raise fees more than once a year and that customers have a right to cancel if they move more than 25 miles away from the health club. Physzique contracts also allegedly allowed the facility to increase the amount debited from customer accounts from month to month.
Physzique customers complained that they were obligated to pay a year's worth of dues even though they had been told they had a right to cancel. Additionally, the company allegedly used deceptive advertising, including health claims that are not backed up by scientific evidence.
A lawsuit filed last week in Spokane County Superior Court alleged that Physzique gave out free trial offers, free visits and free consultations that required winners to supply credit card information. The health club then allegedly charged prospective members if they did not show up for the free visits. The club allegedly charged prospective customers $175 if they did not show up for the scheduled consultations even if they were offered as a free trial, which violates the state's Prizes and Promotions Act.
Spokane's Better Business Bureau found that the free or reduced services were purchased using the website Groupon or solicited at events through raffles. The BBB received 14 complaints against Physzique in the last 12 months and gave the business an F rating because it failed to cooperate with BBB attempts to address a pattern of alleged complaints and misleading advertisements.
Under the terms of the consent decree, Physzique must make clear that consumers are signing contracts, disclose all material terms, make sure contracts comply with state law regarding promotion offers and prizes, and refrain from guaranteeing specific weight loss or body fat percentage reduction claims without possessing reliable and competent scientific evidence to support the claims. Physzique must also pay $15,000 in attorney fees and costs. A $20,000 civil penalty is suspended as long as the health club complies with the agreement.