Planet Fitness, Newington, New Hampshire, has settled with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to avoid litigation over alleged illegal tanning practices.
Planet Fitness paid $50,000 in costs and penalties, and will not offer "unlimited" tanning as part of its premium Black Card membership as part of the agreement, according to a media release from the New York Office of the Attorney General (OAG) on Tuesday.
"This agreement is part of a continuing effort to protect consumers from the documented skin cancer risks of indoor tanning," Schneiderman said in a statement. "I am especially concerned with rising cancer rates associated with indoor tanning, particularly for young people, and businesses that offer indoor tanning should market their services truthfully."
Planet Fitness agreed not to make health-related claims to promote red lamp devices, agreed to provide adequate training to employees who oversee indoor tanning services and agreed to comply with all New York tanning regulations.
"While Planet Fitness Inc. neither admits nor denies the findings of the OAG, and does not advertise or promote any health-related benefits of indoor tanning, we are pleased to have reached an amicable resolution in this matter," Planet Fitness spokeswoman McCall Gosselin said in a statement to Club Industry. "We will continue to strive to ensure that our clubs operate in the best interests of our members, which are, and have always been, our number one priority."
In April, Schneiderman's office served a notice of intent to sue Planet Fitness as part of the state's crackdown over alleged misleading tanning practices.
The notice accused Planet Fitness of four illegal acts and practices in New York. The allegations included failing to provide disclosures and safety requirements, promoting the use of "unlimited" tanning services, using misbranded LED red lamp devices, misrepresenting the benefits of the unapproved Beauty Angel device, and failing to adequately train Planet Fitness employees who assist members in the use of tanning beds and red lamp devices. The investigation claimed Planet Fitness did not require or provide employee training in any Planet Fitness locations beyond the operation of UV devices and sanitizing procedures for tanning beds.
"In the spring of 2013, the New York Office of the Attorney General alleged that seven of the approximately 80 independently owned and operated Planet Fitness franchise locations in New York at the time had violated certain state laws related to tanning advertising, signage, paperwork and eyewear," Gosselin said. "Immediately upon being alerted to these alleged violations, Planet Fitness Inc. re-emphasized to all franchisees that they are contractually required to operate their businesses in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. Since that time, we have also been working closely with the OAG to ensure that the terms 'unlimited' or 'free' are not used in local advertising materials related to tanning services."
Under the settlement, Planet Fitness will adopt written training procedures for employees of corporate locations that emphasize the operation of tanning equipment in a manner adequate to protect consumers from potential overexposure and other hazards related to indoor tanning. Planet Fitness will emphasize to franchisees the importance of compliance with employee training procedures, according to the media release.
Schneiderman's notice to Planet Fitness in April also included an announcement of lawsuits against Portofino Spas LLC and Total Tan Inc., which are currently pending.
The lawsuit against Portofino alleges that Portofino did not post the state’s required warning sign near every tanning device and falsely advertised health benefits of indoor tanning. It also alleges Portofino required patrons to pay for protective eyewear. New York state law requires free protective eyewear be made available at tanning facilities and requires tanning hazards information sheets and acknowledgement forms be distributed to tanning patrons.
The lawsuits allege Portofino and Total Tan made various statements on their websites and social media channels. Portofino questioned the link between ultraviolet rays and melanoma in one message. Total Tan touted a testimonial from a man who “survived” kidney cancer by treating it with tanning at one of its facilities.