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Your Rights under the Prepaid Entertainment Contract Act
The Prepaid Entertainment Contract Act (PECA) provides protection to consumers who have entered into agreements for prepaid agreements for certain services. PECA covers a variety of contracts, ranging from Gym Memberships, Dance lessons, Martial Arts lessons, to online dating services.
In 2012, the Ohio Attorney General instituted an action against a Fitness Center for purported violations of PECA. The court in Ohio v. Riffle concluded that the Fitness Center violated PECA by, amongst other things, the following actions:
- Failing to provide consumers with proper notice of their right to cancel a prepaid entertainment contract as required by PECA
- Closing the fitness facilities and failing to provide refunds for the unused portions of the contract and failing to arrange for a substantially similar fitness facility located within 25 miles of the customers’ residences as required by PECA, which was also a violation of the Consumer Sales Protection Act (CSPA)
- Failing to honor cancellations made by consumers during PECA’s three-day mandatory cooling off window
- Failing to honor valid cancellations made due to a consumer’s disability that prevented the consumer’s enjoyment of the contract’s purpose as required by PECA
- Failing to honor cancellations made after consumers moved outside of a 25 mile radius of the facilities
- Failing to provide refunds to consumers within 10 days after valid cancellations of contracts as required by PECA
- Representing in the contract that certain services, such as childcare, would be available, and failing to provide such services
In Riffle, the Defendant was permanently enjoined from committing any unfair, deceptive, or unconscionable act or practice which violated the CSPA or PECA. The Defendant was further ordered to pay consumer damages and a civil penalty, as well as cease all pending collection actions against other consumers.
LA Fitness Loses PECA Lawsuit
An LA Fitness in Columbus lost a lawsuit to Doucet & Associates this year. The lawsuit alleged that our client was tricked into signing contracts for services that she had no intention of using and would cost her almost nine times as much as she intended to pay. There were numerous violations of the Prepaid Entertainment Contract Act (PECA) concerning LA Fitness’ conduct in this case, and a judgement was taken against LA Fitness after it failed to appear at trial.
In early February, our client signed a contract with LA Fitness for five personal training sessions. The deal, as she understood it, was for her to pay for four personal training sessions and get the fifth one free. However, the contract she signed locked her into a year’s worth of training sessions and renewed automatically each year. Similarly, the contract she signed for access to the gym had the same expanded language.
PECA requires that contracts do not exceed three years in length, arguably making these contracts indefinite. Our client was never informed of her right to cancellation, which was also a clear violation of PECA. Finally, our client was never given a copy of the contracts she signed, resulting in the final violation of the Ohio law.
Thanks to Doucet & Associates Co LPA, our client ultimately won the case, resulting in a complete refund to our client, damages, plus attorney fees and costs. Our law firm often works with cases concerning PECA, which applies to a variety of entertainment contracts including, martial arts facilities, dating services, dance studios, spas and gyms. If you feel that you signed an entertainment contract that was not what you were led to believe, call Doucet & Associates at (614) 944-5219.
Gym Fails to Cancel Membership; Loses Appeal
That gym membership contract does not have as much muscle as you think, according to a recent decision by The Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second Appellate District. If the gym has not followed PECA (Prepaid Entertainment Contract Act) precisely, then the customer can cancel a predatory, overpriced membership and receive a refund of everything paid – plus damages and reasonable attorney fees.
In a recent case filed in Montgomery County, our client sued Everybody Fitness, LLC in Dayton, Ohio for charging a $100.00 enrollment fee (twice the legal limit), payable before he and his wife could use the facility. In addition, the gym charged the couple $48.10 per month, deducted from the plaintiff’s credit card before receiving services, and an annual fee of $41.73. The gym promised that Zumba classes would be available. When the gym failed to offer the classes, the couple decided to cancel their 36-month family membership and requested a refund of all money paid under the contract minus $10.00. Because the contract was a prepaid entertainment contract, cancellation and a refund of was an option.
As part of our client’s cancellation, he requested a copy of his contract, the return of any evidence of indebtedness, and notice of whether the gym would return or keep evidence of indebtedness. But, he did not receive any of these documents. Everybody Fitness failed to provide a Notice of Cancellation within the time frame necessary to comply with PECA requirements, did not provide an address to which our client could deliver the document, and illegally produced a notice with type smaller than 10 point. The trial court determined that the gym did knowingly perform these violations and found for our client on summary judgments.
Everybody Fitness appealed the decision and unsuccessfully argued at the court of appeals that our client’s requests were more than what PECA required. The court agreed with our client and the earlier court’s decision in part, but also reversed the earlier awarding of damages for mental anguish and stress.
Our client paid $911.33 in membership fees over the course of his contract with Everybody Fitness, which the court ordered refunded to him. He is also entitled to statutory double damages for a total award of $1,802.66. The court also awarded our law firm attorney’s fees, which will be determined at the conclusion of the case.
To schedule an appointment for help in membership cancellation, call the consumer protection lawyers at Doucet & Associates at (614) 944-5219.
South Beach Fitness LLC Closes Location in Gahanna, OH
South Beach Fitness, LLC in Gahanna, Ohio closed that location in late September, 2013 to the surprise of many people. On the entrance door, it welcomed its members to visit its facility several miles away in Reynoldsburg. Unfortunately, some members recently signed up for services in Gahanna and expected to receive services at the Gahanna gym, especially after paying hundreds of dollars in enrollment and administrative fees. Questions remain about when the gym ownership knew about the move and why they chose to accept new membership fees with a pending move on the horizon.
Our firm is looking to help people who would like a refund of the money they paid to South Beach Fitness, LLC. The membership contract we reviewed appears to violate Ohio law, which likely entitles consumers to a refund of money paid, some damages, plus the payment of our attorneys’ fees for assisting in the matter.
If you would like to discuss how Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. can help you cancel your contract with no out of pocket attorney costs, please call us today at (614) 944-5219.