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Bally to Refund Ex-Members in Texas

CHICAGO -- Bally Total Fitness will refund money to former members in Texas in an agreement it signed today with the Texas Attorney General.

According to the final judgment, Bally, which operates 24 clubs in the Dallas, Houston and San Antonio areas, will no longer send “past due” bills to former members who do not owe the Chicago-based company and will refund money to the more than 1,000 former members who paid fees they did not owe and who did not use the clubs. Bally had mailed more than 11,000 past due notices to former members to encourage them to rejoin.

“Although Bally denies all allegations made by the Texas Attorney General’s office, we have chosen to resolve this matter consensually in order to minimize the cost and disruption of litigation,” Bally spokesperson Pete Marino said in a statement today. “Notably, our settlement does not involve any finding of any wrongdoing on the part of Bally, nor were any civil penalties imposed. We are pleased to put this matter behind us so that we can continue to focus on enhancing our member experience.”

An investigation by the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott revealed the notices were sent between the summer of 2009 and March 2010. Bally had included in the notices that harmful information may be submitted to the former members’ credit bureaus if they did not pay the balance on those notices, which were part of Bally’s “value plan” that demanded immediate payment.

The judgment includes an injunction that prohibits Bally from indicating that current or former members owe a balance unless that balance is actually owed.

Bally Clubs Close

In other Bally news, the company has recently closed two clubs, one in Cincinnati and one in Rockford, IL. The Cincinnati club is expected to close today. The Rockford, IL, club closed on Friday after being in business for 30 years.

“Like other retailers, we are always looking to optimize our club network so that our members have the best possible facilities to work out in,” Marino said. “Occasionally, this means that we will close older club locations when their leases expire. When we make these decisions, our members are always our top priority, and that is why in most cases the large majority continue to stay and work out at other Bally clubs in the area.”

According to published reports, one other Bally club remains in the Cincinnati area, and the nearest Bally to the one in Rockford is in the Chicago area.

Last year, Bally closed 26 clubs as part of the company’s bankruptcy reorganization.

In addition to the two closed clubs, a Bally club in Fairmount, NY, is ending all group fitness classes beginning Wednesday, according to a local media report.

“It was a tough decision made with the business in mind as classes are expensive to operate,” Marino said.

Marino added that Bally plans to open several new, contemporary clubs around the country this year and next year “to provide our members with even more choices for locations for their workouts.” Marino declined to elaborate on the nature of those contemporary clubs.

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