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Fairfield's Lions Den Fitness Center and Fit Female Included in Health Club Crackdown by NJ Division of Consumer Affairs

Carolyne Volpe Curley

Friday, April 11, 2014 • 11:20pm


FAIRFIELD, NJ - On Thursday, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) fined 53 health clubs throughout New Jersey for their alleged failure to comply with consumer protection laws. Caught up in the sweep were Fairfield health clubs Lions Den Fitness Center, located at 1275 Bloomfield Avenue and Fit Female, located at 461 Route 46 West. According to Hoffman, DCA investigators visited 72 health clubs statewide to evaluate their business practices, view their contracts and compare that information with the State’s registration records.

A total of $165,000 in civil penalties were assessed against 31 reportedly unregistered health clubs. Additionally, the DCA assessed $118,500 in penalties against 22 health clubs that are properly registered but allegedly violated NJ law by selling longer‐term contracts to consumers, without maintaining a required security bond or letter of credit. 

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

Unregistered Health Clubs
State law requires that all health clubs which devote at least 40 percent of their floor space to physical fitness services must register with Consumer Affairs and provide information about their ownership and operations. The 31 allegedly unregistered health clubs were each assessed a $5,000 penalty except for Signature Fitness, in Whippany, and Signature Health & Wellness, in Belleville which were each assessed total penalties of $10,000. The two companies reportedly failed to comply with the DCA's earlier penalty against them in 2011 for, among other things, agreeing not to sell their health club services without registering as required by law.

The following West Essex area health clubs were given DCA violation penalties: 
  • Crunch Gym (Wayne Health Club)   
    1055 Hamburg Turnpike, Wayne
    $5,000 
     
  • Curves for Women
    276 Route 53, Denville
    $5,000 
     
  • Lions Den Fitness Center
    1275 Bloomfield Avenue, Fairfield
    $5,000
     
  • Signature Fitness (Physiques Unlimited)
    471 Cortlandt St., Belleville
    $10,000
    Signature Health & Wellness (Physiques Unlimited II / Affinity Fitness)
    50 Route 10 West, Whippany
    $10,000
     
  • Snap Fitness (Flex Fitness)
    16 Route 46, Pine Brook
    $5,000 
Health Clubs that Allegedly Do Not Maintain a Required Security Bond
Under NJ law, any health club that offers contracts for longer than three months must post a security bond or letter of credit with the DCA. Should the health club cease operations or violate their contracts, this bond assures there will be a source for refunds to consumers. The 22 registered health clubs that allegedly offered contracts longer than three months without posting a required security bond or line of credit were each assessed a $5,000 penalty. In some cases, the Division assessed additional $250 fines for failure to conspicuously post the notification of consumers’ rights or the company’s state registration record. 

The following West Essex area health clubs were given DCA violation penalties: 
  • A Fit Above Gym and Fitness Center
    290 Chestnut St, Newark
    $5,000 
     
  • Fit Female
    461 Route 46 West, Fairfield
    $5,500 
     
  • Plaza Fitness Center
    11 Westinghouse Plaza,Bloomfield
    $5,500 
     
  • Ultimate Health & Fitness
    1 Route 46, Totowa
    $5,000
New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said, “With better weather finally approaching, many New Jerseyans may feel inspired to 'hit the gym' and get in shape. These consumers deserve the assurance that their health club is operating in compliance with the law – and that they won't lose money on a long term contract if the health club goes out of business."

Health Club Legal Response
Now that the DCA has filed the violations against the health clubs, each business may respond by paying the penalty or they may request a conference or a formal administrative hearing before the DCA Director. If an administrative hearing is held and the Division finds the violations have been proven, additional civil penalties of up to $10,000 for a first violation and up to $20,000 for subsequent violations may be assessed. 

Consumer Protection

The DCA has compiled a list of recommendations for consumers who are choosing a health club which can be viewed online here. Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs online here or by calling 800‐242‐5846.

 

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