Joining a gym? Read the fine print

Ohio's attorney general warns new members to read their contract before signing up.

One of the New Year's most popular resolutions could cost consumers more than they bargained for, according to an alert put out by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

According to DeWine, many health clubs have extra fees for services like child care or fitness classes, cancellation policies and access to other gym locations. These fees are detailed in membership contracts, but may not be explicitly stated by a representative when new members sign up.

"Many Ohioans will be resolving to lose weight or get healthy in 2013," DeWine said. "Those are great goals, but it's important not to get caught up in the hype and forget to read the fine print of a contract. You don't want to be surprised months later when you're paying more than expected for your membership or you can't cancel when you want."

Before signing a contract, DeWine says consumers should understand:

â?¢ Total cost, including sales tax

â?¢ If certain services, such as child care or group fitness classes, cost extra

â?¢ Cancellation policies

â?¢ Whether the membership includes access to other locations of the same gym

â?¢ Whether personal training services are covered under a separate contract

â?¢ Whether verbal agreements have been included in the written contract

â?¢ Length of the contract, which should not exceed three years

â?¢ How payments will be applied, such as automatic account withdrawal

Under Ohio's Prepaid Entertainment Contracts Act, consumers have three business days to cancel contracts for dance studio lessons, dating services, martial arts training, and health spa services, such as gym memberships. Cancellations must be in writing and must be postmarked by midnight of the third business day after the first service is available.

If the facility has not opened for business when the consumer signs the contract, the consumer's right to cancel extends to seven days after the first service under the contract is available.

Consumers who want to cancel should send their cancellation notices via certified mail with a return receipt requested. This will give them proof the notice was sent to and received by the business. Consumers also should keep copies of the original contract, the cancellation notice, and the return receipt in case of any problems.

Consumers who believe they have been treated unfairly should file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General's Office at or 800-282-0515.