- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Sues Boston Sports Clubs for Illegally Charging Members and Failing to Honor Contract Cancellations
BOSTON — After repeated failures by Boston Sports Clubs (BSC) to honor cancellation requests and stop charging for unwanted memberships, Attorney General Maura Healey has sued the company for violating state laws and refusing to follow through on previous commitments with the AG’s Office to provide refunds to thousands of affected consumers.
The complaint, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court against Town Sports International LLC d/b/a Boston Sports Clubs, alleges that BSC misled its members about their rights and continues to charge members who requested cancellation in violation of Massachusetts consumer protection laws.
“From the start of this pandemic, Boston Sports Clubs has shown a total disregard for its members, for good business practices, and for the law,” AG Healey said. “This company claimed it wanted to do the right thing, but it reneged on its promises. We are taking action today to secure relief for the thousands of people who have been cheated by BSC.”
After BSC closed all its locations on March 16 and substantially changed operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AG’s Office has received more than 2,000 complaints from members who have tried and failed to cancel their contracts with the company to avoid paying for facilities they could not access. Consumers report that they have called, emailed and sent social media messages to BSC in an effort to cancel their contracts, all without receiving any response. Consumers also allege BSC continued to charge for memberships even after receiving cancellation notices. BSC facilities remained closed until early July 2020, and multiple facilities in Massachusetts have since closed again.
Under Massachusetts law, consumers have a right to cancel a contract with a health club without penalty when the club “substantially changes the operation of the health club or location.” The indefinite closure of all BSC clubs as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic qualifies as a “substantial change” and gives BSC’s members the right to cancel their contracts.
Despite being closed, BSC charged members the full April membership fee. Members who attempted to cancel their contracts in March and April were rebuffed and told they needed to cancel with 30-45 days’ notice, in person and/or by certified letter, and pay a cancellation fee, despite being unable to access or use the facilities.
As the result of a demand letter from the AG’s Office sent in April, BSC agreed to stop billing their members while their gyms are closed, place a no-cost freeze on all accounts, and allow members to cancel their contracts without paying a fee. However, many members who submitted cancellation requests in April, May and June still were not cancelled. In July, when BSC resumed limited operations, memberships that were automatically frozen were unilaterally unfrozen and accounts were automatically debited without consent. BSC also sent emails to its members trying to persuade them not to move forward with their cancellations.
According to the AG’s complaint, BSC refused to process new cancellations unless members paid a $10 cancellation fee. If they did not pay the fee, BSC continued to charge them monthly. BSC also threatened to refer members to debt collection agencies when members did not continue to pay for the memberships they had previously canceled.
Most recently in October, while the bankruptcy was pending, BSC agreed to a deal with the AG’s Office to provide refunds to its members and ensure that everyone who wanted could cancel their contracts without penalty as long as the clubs were operating at substantially reduced capacity. But BSC has since refused to make any effort to live up to the terms of the agreement.
The AG’s complaint seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties and other appropriate relief pursuant to the state’s consumer protection law.
If consumers continue to have problems cancelling their contracts with BSC or have questions related to this lawsuit, they may call the AG’s consumer hotline at 617-727-8400.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Michael Lecaroz and Deputy Chief Shennan Kavanagh, with assistance from Paralegal David Birch, all of AG Healey’s Consumer Protection Division.