consumer

Washington Sports Clubs Owner Being Sued for Charging During Pandemic

D.C.'s attorney general says the gym has not followed through on promised refunds and membership cancellations

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D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit Thursday against Town Sports International, LLC (TSI), the parent company of Washington Sports Clubs, claiming that the company has not followed through on promises made to gym members during the pandemic.

Three states’ attorneys general sent a letter to TSI in April demanding they freeze members’ accounts while the gyms were forced to close. TSI agreed to freeze memberships, credit consumers for dues paid while their gyms were inaccessible and process requests for cancellations.

The D.C. attorney general’s office says that since reopening on June 22, the company has neither issued those credits nor processed all membership cancellations. It is now seeking a court order forcing TSI to follow through on its agreement and pay civil penalties.

“The Office of the Attorney General warned the company that we would take necessary action if it did not honor cancellation requests and address charges billed over the COVID-19 closure period,” Racine said a statement. “We filed today’s lawsuit to get consumers their money back and the credits they were promised, and to ensure none of them pay for memberships they have canceled.”

Washington Sports Clubs (WSC) responded to the lawsuit in a press release Monday. "These are extraordinary circumstances that weigh heavily on all businesses," Dave Haydu, Senior Business Director of WSC, said in the statement. "Despite our best efforts to honor all member requests – granting thousands of cancellations and issuing credits and refunds across our four DC locations – it is disheartening to see the DC Attorney General’s office file what seems to be continued and biased legal action against WSC."

Before the pandemic, there were six Washington Sports Club locations in the District; two are now permanently closed.

"We have been working closely with the Attorney General’s office since the crisis began, complying with all of their requests. It is unclear why WSC has been so obviously singled out on this and other issues," Haydu said in Monday's statement.

The attorney general’s office is currently litigating a 2019 lawsuit against TSI alleging deceptive billing and cancellation practices. In 2016, TSI settled another lawsuit filed by the D.C. attorney general’s office over its cancellation policies.

If you believe you were unlawfully charged, the Office of the Attorney General asks that you file a complaint by filling out an online form, calling 202-442-9828 or emailing consumer.protection@dc.gov. They say that if your dues are automatically deducted from a bank account or credit card you should contact your financial institution to stop the payments. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has tips here

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