PA’s Health Club Registration Act
Your Health Club Membership Agreement
Hopefully, most of our readers engage in some kind of physical
activity…jogging, bicycling, weightlifting, cardiovascular work, etc. While many
of our readers engage in such activity at home, I would think that most of us
belong to a local workout facility. If you do belong to a Health Club in your
community, be advised that the facility is closely regulated by Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Health Club Registration Act became effective on June 20,
1990. The Act was passed in response to a number of high-profile scandals in the
late 1980’s - some Health Club facilities took membership dues, initiation fees
and deposits from the public and then went out of business and moved out of town
during the dark of night, or never opened in the first place. In response to
such fraud, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed the above Act to provide closer
scrutiny of the Health Club industry and provide more protection for consumers.
The Act regulates Health Clubs as follows:
• All Health Clubs must register with the
Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Bureau of Consumer Protection, at least
30 days before they advertise or sell Health Club contracts;
• All Health Clubs must register if they will be
selling membership contracts for a term of more than 3 months;
• Existing Health Clubs must separately register for each Health Club location owned; and
• The actual Health Club membership agreement must
be reviewed and approved by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General before
the Health Club can sell memberships.
Generally, all for-profit clubs that have health training facilities as its
primary purpose are regulated by the above Act. The Act, however, does not cover
non-profit organizations that have a Health Club in its facility. The Health
Club must post a bond or a letter of credit with the Commonwealth if it wishes
to sell Health Club memberships for a term of more than 12 months. In practice,
most Health Clubs apply to be exempt from posting a bond or letter of
credit, and, in order to do so, the club must agree that: it cannot sell
membership agreements for terms longer than twelve months, all payments must be
made in equal monthly installments, the initiation fee is limited to the actual
cost of establishing the initial membership, the membership agreement must
contain a provision terminating the contract if the Health Club goes out of
business without another club owned by the entity existing within a 10-mile
A Health Club membership agreement must:
• be in writing;
• give the member a 3-day right of rescission to
cancel and get all of his money back;
• allow members to extend the term if temporarily
disabled (or cancel if the member dies or becomes permanently disabled, in which
case the member will receive a refund of his pro-rata share of prepaid
• allow the member to cancel the agreement, and
receive a refund of his pro-rata share of prepaid fees, if he moves more than 25
miles from his home without another facility being available within a 5-mile
radius of his new home; and
• not automatically renew without the member
affirmatively accepting renewal at the end of each term.
If the Health Club fails to comply with the Act, the Pennsylvania Attorney
General’s Office can file criminal charges (2nd degree misdemeanor)
and bring a civil action against the owner under the Unfair Trade Practices Act
(and charge up to $3,000 per violation). In addition, a Health Club membership
agreement is voidable by the member if it does not comply with the Act.
As you can see from the above, Pennsylvania is strictly regulating Health
Clubs and their membership agreements. The next time you are running on a
treadmill, riding the elliptical bike and/or lifting weights at your Health Club
ask for proof that it is in full compliance with the Health Club Registration
Information regarding your Health Club membership agreement is featured in
the OWM Legal Talk program appearing on PCTV for the month of December, 2011.
This and other Legal Talk programs can be viewed on our website at www.owmlaw.com/legal_talk/legal_talk.php.
Megay is being featured on Phoenixville Phantom TV in its "Expert’s Corner"
series discussing legal issues, including estate
Read Legal Ease every other Sunday in the Pottstown Mercury.
Watch Legal Talk, brought to you by OWM, on PCTV, Tuesdays at 8:30 on Channel 28, and Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on Channel 98, or on our website at www.owmlaw.com/legal_talk/legal_talk.php.