The Attorneys General of New York, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia recently wrote to Town Sports International Holdings -- the owner of New York Sports Club, Philadelphia Sports Club, and Washington Sports Club -- and demanded that the company stop charging customers for membership fees while its gyms are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In their letter, the AGs charged that TSI, "has violated multiple State laws by charging consumers membership dues for services TSI no longer offers, imposing punitively high cancellation and freezing fees that are unconscionable under the circumstances, misleading consumers about their rights to cancel or freeze their memberships, withholding information from consumers about how they can cancel or freeze their memberships, and refusing to honor cancellation requests."
Specifically, the AGs said that TSI violated the law by charging dues or assessing fees "when the services for which members pay such fees are unquestionably no longer being provided through no fault of the members." The AGs said that gym members have the absolute right to cancel or freeze their memberships without paying any fees or providing advance notice when TSI has closed its clubs, even if the closures were mandated by the government as a result of the national COVID19 pandemic and state of emergency.
The AGs also said that it is an unfair and deceptive practice for TSI to mislead or fail to inform members how they can exercise their rights to cancel or freeze their memberships. The AGs said, "At a time when millions of Americans have lost their jobs and every penny counts, TSI’s refusal to accurately apprise members of their rights, or to mislead them about their rights, is unfair and deceptive."
In addition to requiring TSI to stop charging membership fees when its clubs are closed, the AGs demanded that the company post a notice on its website, and send an e-mail to its members, informing them of this fact.
"neither a national emergency nor dire financial straits relieves TSI of its obligation to follow the law"