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Washington gyms must allow members to cancel any time during coronavirus crisis

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson wrote an open letter to fitness centers and gyms to provide guidance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gyms and fitness centers must allow customers to cancel memberships any time and for any reason, including the inability to access the facilities due the global pandemic, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson wrote in an open letter on April 17.

The letter was written in response to "dozens of consumer complaints."

"We are sending out a clear message that that is not okay," Ferguson said.

In the letter, Ferguson writes that members of gyms and fitness centers are legally entitled to a refund of the unused portion of any prepaid fees or dues. Fitness centers must pay the refund within 30 days of a written notice of cancellation. 

“My office received dozens of complaints from Washington consumers that their fitness center is continuing to charge them membership fees in the midst of this crisis,” Ferguson said. “The law is clear: Washingtonians are allowed to cancel their gym memberships any time, for any reason.” 

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The guidance from Ferguson applies to all health studies define as “any person or entity engaged in the sale of instruction, training, assistance or use of facilities which purport to assist patrons to improve their physical condition or appearance through physical exercise, body building, weight loss, figure development, the martial arts, or any other similar activity.” 

Additionally, Ferguson points out, there is nothing in Washington state law that prohibits gyms and fitness centers from waiving the written requirement and accepting cancellations over the phone.

"If you've paid in advance in some way, you are entitled to a refund on the unused portion of what you have paid," Ferguson said.

Gyms and fitness centers could comply with the law by not charging membership fees until the facilities can reopen.

RELATED: Gyms adjust to statewide shutdown mandated to prevent spread of coronavirus

Gym and fitness centers will remain closed until at least May 4 due to Gov. Jay Inslee's stay home order.

Though the latest prediction model from University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows the state could begin to ease social distancing guidelines by May 28, it's unclear when businesses deemed non-essential could begin to reopen.

Do you have a question or concern about money during the coronavirus pandemic? Email us at money@king5.com.

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