GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kent County Circuit Court judge has ruled Family Fitness must stop some business practices that he described as “abusive.”
The preliminary injunction granted by Judge Christopher Yates comes as a class-action lawsuit filed by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette against Family Fitness, which owns 14 centers in West Michigan, is still pending litigation.
Though Yates said he could not grant all nine requests made by Schuette, he did not mince words a 10-page opinion dated Dec. 7.
“The Court cannot muster much sympathy for the defendants (collectively, ‘Family Fitness’),” Yates wrote. “(Family Fitness) employed telemarketers, bait-and-switch tactics and dubious contract-negotiation strategies to lure and lock potential customers into long-term health-club memberships.”
The opinion cites testimony from people who won free memberships, only to be called sometime after and told they owed money. In one case, a man was called more than a year after using the membership and was told he owed more than $1,000. In exchange for forgiving that debt, the man testified he reluctantly signed a new two-year contract.
Yates went on to write, “Needless to say, this is no way to run a railroad, unless the goal is to railroad customers.”
Family Fitness is now prohibited from:
- Trying to stop a member from canceling their membership or personal training.
- Applying a member’s electronic signature to an agreement without the person knowing.
- Telling a customer their debt with the gym can be removed if they sign a new membership.
- Enforcing any memberships that started because Family Fitness told a member their debt would be resolved by signing a new agreement.
- Lying about a membership or training session being free when in fact charges will be applied.
- Promising a prize to generate business unless it fully complies with Michigan law.
>>PDF: The judge’s decision
Yates ruled Family Fitnes can still charge cancellation fees. It can still notify credit agencies about members who neglect contracts and work with collection agencies.
Family Fitness also does not have to pay damages until the conclusion of the litigation.
A representative for the health club told 24 Hour News 8 it felt the ruling is fair, its membership base is still strong and it is excited about growing the business in 2018.
The Attorney General’s Office declined comment because of the pending litigation.