ATTORNEY GENERAL OF WASHINGTON
1125 Washington Street SE
PO Box 40100
Olympia WA 98504-0100
BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU OF EASTERN WASHINGTON, NORTH IDAHO & MONTANA
152 S. Jefferson, Suite 200
Spokane, WA 99201
Sept. 12, 2012
Attorney General’s Office reaches deal with Liberty Lake health club
Spokane Better Business Bureau discovered questionable practices at Physzique, alerted AG’s Office
SPOKANE – A Liberty Lake health club will change business practices the State Attorney General’s Office says violate state consumer protection laws.
“Consumers complained that the contracts signed with Physzique obligated them to a year’s worth of dues, when they had been told they had a right to cancel,” said Assistant Attorney General Brooks Clemmons. “Our investigation also found that several other sections of Physzique’s contracts violate state requirements for health club contracts.”
The Attorney General’s Office filed a complaint last week in Spokane County Superior Court alleging that Physzique failed to include in their contracts, as required by state law, notices that the club may not raise fees more than once a year and that customers have the right to cancel if they move more than 25 miles from the facility. Physzique contracts also authorized the health club to increase the amount debited from customer accounts from month to month. State law only allows health clubs to increase fees or dues once a year.
“Physzique also used deceptive advertising, along with health claims that can’t be backed up with scientific evidence,” said Clemmons. “These are misleading tactics that violate state laws to protect consumers.”
According to the complaint, Physzique provided free trial offers, free consultations or free visits that required “winners” to supply credit card information so that the health club could charge prospective members if they did not show up for their “free” visits. Spokane’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that the free or reduced services were either bought using the web site Groupon or solicited at events such as bridal fairs through raffles where complainants noticed that not only did they “win” but so did their sister, friend, etc. The BBB received 14 complaints against Physzique in the last 12 months and visited, as a secret shopper, in order to investigate the complaints. The BBB also alerted the Attorney General’s Office to Physzique’s business practices. The Spokane BBB gives the Liberty Lake business an “F” rating due to failing to cooperate with BBB efforts to address a pattern of complaints and misleading advertisements.
The Attorney General’s Office complaint also alleges that the health club charged prospective customers $175 if they did not show up for their scheduled consultation, even if those visits were offered as a free trial. Such a policy is a violation of Washington’s Prizes and Promotions Act.
Unsupported health claims, which the Attorney General’s Office says violate the Consumer Protection Act and Health Services Act, included Physzique’s guarantees of certain results, including:
· “7+ pounds of weigh loss every 30 days (ongoing results)”
· “lose 1-2 dress sizes in your first month (and every month after)”
· “drop 3-6% body fat in your first 12 weeks (and every month after)”
· “..guarantees you will get in the best shape of your life”
Under the terms of a consent decree, also filed last week by the Attorney General’s Office,
Physzique is required to make clear that patrons are signing contracts and disclose all material terms. They are prohibited from soliciting customers guaranteeing specific weight loss or percent body fat reduction without possessing competent and reliable scientific evidence to support such claims. They must make sure their contracts comply with state law and comply with state law regarding promotional offers and prizes.
Physzique will pay $15,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs. The consent decree also requires $20,000 in civil penalties, which are suspended as long as the health club abides by the terms of the agreement.