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Have you checked your bank statement? Many membership fees continue despite closures

While some businesses chose to stop fees immediately, others like gyms continue to charge consumers.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — During the coronavirus pandemic, there’s been a shutdown of all non-essential services but that doesn’t mean you’re not taking the financial hit from non-essential charges.

“The BBB encourages consumers to really take the time and read contracts prior to signing and this is uncharted territory,” said Skylar Crowley, a spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau in San Diego.

“Businesses should be doing their part to communicate their timelines and their availability with their consumers especially regarding closures and fees that may or may not still be occurring,” she said.

In recent weeks, News 8 has received complaints regarding companies continuing to charge fees for services that right now, aren’t available.

From gyms to massage places, and theme parks.

This week a San Diego woman filed a lawsuit against SeaWorld San Diego for charging fees for annual passes in April, weeks after the shutdown began.

They have since opened other options for customers but according to the BBB, legally, they didn’t even have to do that.

“Legally, they are not, it is all in the context of the contract,” she said.

Similar complaints also came up for gyms like 24-Hour Fitness.

News 8 spoke to them, and they confirmed they stopped charging fees on April 16.

For many franchise businesses like Massage Envy, it really depended on which location you had a membership with.

Some reached out to customers to stop charges, others offered deals or left it up to the customer to call them and cancel.

“We encourage you to review your financial statements monthly if not weekly, to make sure you know what charges are coming through,” Crowley said.

Orange Theory, a nationwide workout chain, stopped charging people once the shutdown began.

Not legally necessary but the BBB says, likely appreciated, in a time when people are struggling.

“This may be a question we ask now because it’s something we have just gotten the taste of for the first time.”

News 8 received the following via email from 24-Hour Fitness: 

"As the COVID-19 pandemic has grown in astonishing scale, 24 Hour Fitness has never wavered in its conviction that our top priority is always the health and safety of club members, team members and guests.

On March 16, we made the difficult decision to close all our clubs, and also indicated that memberships would be extended to cover the time of club closures. Since these announcements, we’ve appreciated both the support and critical feedback about our actions.  And now based on current public health projections, it appears our clubs may need to be closed for an extended period of time. 

Effective April 16, 24 Hour Fitness will suspend all membership billings, including any additional services and fees, if we are unable to reopen clubs by that time.  For the membership billings charged from March 17 through April 15, members will receive additional days of club access equal to the number of days paid for while the clubs were closed in their area.  That extension will apply at the end of the membership.  Members with a pre-paid membership will have their membership end date extended to cover the amount of time the clubs were closed in their area.

During this critical time for our business, our goal will continue to be focused on surviving this crisis so that we can ultimately emerge and welcome our club members, team members and guests back when it is safe to do so.  However, for members who prefer to cancel their membership, visit 24hourfitness.com, click on the link and follow the instructions to submit a request to cancel.  We hope members will reconsider prior to taking that step.  We take pride in helping people transform their lives through fitness and that bond is even more vital now.

While our clubs are temporarily closed, we encourage everyone to download and utilize 24GO, our personalized fitness app and visit 24GO Live, our new 24/7 workout experience broadcast on the 24 Hour Fitness YouTube Channel, among other virtual fitness solutions.  We will continue to provide updates about our club reopening status, which can also be found at 24hourfitness.com."

News 8 also received the following statement via email from Massage Envy's corporate office:

"Independent decisions regarding its billing practices. If a customer has any questions about their membership, including billing, we encourage the customer to call or email the location where they signed up for their membership to understand their options and work through a solution."

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