DC gym hit with restraining order for charging membership fees during pandemic

Courts ruled in favor of the District on Friday in its case against Washington Sports Club for charging membership fees during its coronavirus closures in the spring.

The decision by the D.C. Superior Court puts a temporary restraining order on Washington Sports Club’s parent company, Town Sports International LLC, from collecting fees from customers who canceled their memberships between March 17 and June 22, starting Tuesday, Sept. 1.

Those customers should have received an email confirming their canceled membership from Town Sports.

A preliminary injunction hearing is set for Sept. 23 at 10 a.m.

It is the latest victory for D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, who joined attorneys general from New York and Pennsylvania where the gym also operates, to demand Washington Sports Club stop charging customers monthly dues and cancellation fees back in early April.

The letter called on the company to freeze all memberships at no cost and stop imposing conditions such as advanced notice requirements to cancel during the pandemic.

Later that same month, Racine announced that Washington Sports Club would stop charging membership fees while gyms are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The gym then said it would credit members for the time its locations had been closed, retroactively freeze memberships as of April 8 and offer free membership cancellations online through its “Contact Us” page.

However, Racine filed a lawsuit against Town Sports International, claiming that the company has failed to follow through in supplying the promised credits to gym members.

It is the second time the city has sued Town Sports International. Last year, they sued the company, alleging that it failed to inform its clients about the gym’s cancellation policies and continued to charge them even after they attempted to cancel their memberships, among other deceptive business practices.

“The Office of the Attorney General warned the company that we would take necessary action if it did not honor cancellation requests and address charges billed over the COVID-19 closure period,” Racine said.

“We filed today’s lawsuit to get consumers their money back and the credits they were promised, and to ensure none of them pay for memberships they have canceled.”

Under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act, the District’s attorney general can seek an injunction against unlawful trade practices without having to prove damages.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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