The New York State Attorney General announced last week a settlement with Synergy Fitness, New York, in a lawsuit related to its billing practices. Nine of its health club locations, all in New York City and Nassau County, allegedly improperly billed customers and misrepresented cancellation policies, violating the New York State Health Club Services Law, according to a media release from the attorney general's office.
Per the settlement’s terms, Synergy will modify its consumer contracts and pay the state of New York $60,000 in penalties and fines. The health club also agreed to cease what Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman deemed were harassing debt-collection practices. Schneiderman alleged Synergy had agents repeatedly hound consumers about payments on contracts that members claim had been cancelled years earlier and failed to honor cancellation requests.
“Consumers join health clubs to get fit—not to spend energy avoiding improper fees or dealing with harassing collection calls concerning lawfully cancelled contracts,” Schneiderman said in the media release. “We won’t tolerate companies that employ opaque and illegal practices to line their pockets at the expense of New Yorkers.”
Going forward, Synergy must verify all outstanding balances before they are sent to a third-party collection agency and must revamp its procedures to review complaints from consumers. Synergy also must provide restitution to former members who can demonstrate that as of Jan. 1 2014, they were charged dues after cancelling their memberships.
Of the nine Synergy Fitness locations entangled in the lawsuit, three are no longer in business. The remaining six are located in New York City (three locations), and Astoria, Garden City and Farmingdale (one location each).
In January, the New York attorney general’s office settled with nearly 100 health clubs related to alleged violations of New York law. Synergy Fitness was not included in that lawsuit or settlement.
In April 2015, Schneiderman threatened a lawsuit against several facilities, including Planet Fitness, claiming at the companies misled people about the safety of their tanning offerings. In November 2015, Planet Fitness settled the suit for $50,000.