Can gyms closed by pandemic keep billing members?

Can gyms closed by pandemic keep billing members?

Gyms, health clubs, fitness centers and self-defense schools are closed in Maryland due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Anthony 9231/ Creative Commons)

State law prohibits health clubs that are closed for longer than a month during the COVID-19 pandemic from billing members who pay month-to-month, the office of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said.

For members with contracts of at least three months, gyms, health clubs, fitness centers and self-defense schools must either extend contracts for the equivalent time of the closure or provide prorated refunds.

“Additionally, Fitness Centers cannot require that members proactively take action to freeze their membership or charge freeze fees as a result of the mandated closures,” a statement from Frosh’s office said.

All gyms, health clubs, fitness centers and self-defense schools in the state have been closed to the public since March 16 due to the COVID-19 crisis. Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home executive order mandated that Marylanders stay at home and closed all non-essential businesses.

A fitness center cannot require a member with a contract to accept an online fitness option during the closure in lieu of offering a contract extension or a refund. Clubs who are charging for optional online services must price those services according to their value, Frosh’s office said.

A fitness center’s policies for billing members during a closure is governed by Section 14-12B-04 of the state’s Health Club Services Act, Frosh’s office said.

Consumers are urged to contact their individual club with specific questions about the club’s policy during the closure, or if they have special billing needs or concerns as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Anyone who needs assistance with fitness center issues can call Frosh’s office at 410-576-6350. You will get a response as quickly as possible if you have to leave a message. Another option is to send an email to healthclub@oag.state.md.us.

Go to www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Pages/COVID19/default.aspx for other frequently asked consumer questions about COVID-19.

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