Fitness First Exec Disputes State’s Allegations
‘We are not doing anything wrong,’ says Amy DiPasquale, Fitness First chief operating officer.
A health club chain’s chief operating officer is disputing Maryland Consumer Protection Division allegation that the business has improperly collected fees at nine of its facilities.
“We are not doing anything wrong,” Fitness First executive Amy DiPasquale told Patch Wednesday. “We are following the code.”
Last week, the Consumer Protection Division filed an administrative statement of charges against Fitness First, claiming that nine clubs in Montgomery County and Frederick, Md., had collected a $29 annual “Facility Enhancement Fee” in addition to monthly dues, but did not post bond to protect the payments, as required under Maryland law.
The Fitness First locations in Germantown and North Potomac were among the nine named in the state’s charges, Patch reported Tuesday.
The state is seeking an order requiring Fitness First to post the bond or stop collecting the facility management fee, refund annual fees and pay civil penalties and costs.
By law, health clubs must register as a bonded business with the Consumer Protection Division’s Health Club Unit if the club accepts more than three months’ payment in advance or charges any other up-front fee over $200. Bonded businesses are required to post a surety bond, a letter of credit or cash deposit with the Consumer Protection Division to match their total liabilities to consumers, the Health Club Services Law states.
The State’s Attorney’s Office claims the yearly $29 fee constitutes charging more than three months’ payment in advance, grounds for having to register as a bonded business. But the fitness club "did not provide the state’s Health Club Registration Unit with a surety bond, letter of credit or cash deposit," the charges state.
DiPasquale said the yearly $29 fee did not amount to an up-front charge.
“We disclose our fees on our contract,” DiPasquale said. “We actually have our members initial next to the fee. There's nothing we have done illegal, or outside of the code that's written by the state.”
When asked for more specific information — including the amount of the monthly membership rate stipulated in the health club’s membership contract — DiPasquale said she would have to refer to her attorney because it was a pending legal matter.