NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Acting Attorney General John Hoffman announced on Thursday that his office filed administrative actions against 53 health clubs alleging they failed to comply with consumer protection laws.

Hoffman's Division of Consumer Affairs assessed a total of $283,500 in civil penalties against the clubs. The actions were filed in an effort to protect consumers seeking to get back in shape after a severe winter.

"When consumers pay for a gym membership, they need to know the gym will be held accountable for maintaining its side of the contract," Hoffman said. "That is the purpose of our registration laws and other requirements. We are citing these health clubs for their alleged failure to comply with these consumer protection laws."

Hoffman's office assessed $165,000 in civil penalties against 31 health clubs that allegedly failed to register with the state. New Jersey law requires that all health clubs that devote at least 40 percent of their floor space to physical fitness services must register with the Division of Consumer Affairs and provide information about their operations and ownership.

Hoffman's office also assessed $118,500 in penalties against 22 health clubs that allegedly violated state law by selling longer-term contracts to consumers without maintaining a required security bond or letter of credit, in violation of state law. The requirement ensures there will be a source for refunds if the health club shuts down or violates its contracts.

In response to the notices of violation, each business may acknowledge the conduct, agree to comply with the law and pay the assessed civil penalty. The businesses may also request a mitigation conference or contest the charges and request a formal administrative hearing.

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