Virginia has become the first state in the area to establish a refund program for consumers who have lost money because of the closing of bonded health clubs.
As a result, members of the five Virginia Fun & Fitness Clubs, which abruptly closed Jan. 31, probably will get their membership refunds before members of the two Maryland Fun & Fitness Clubs, which shut down Feb. 4.
Refunds will be paid from the $50,000 bonds posted in Virginia and Maryland by Beachwood Spa International, the Cleveland firm that operated the seven clubs. Both states require most health clubs to post a bond to pay refunds to members in case the club folds. A similar District law took effect March 13, and officials are establishing procedures for collecting the bonds.
Dan Zipperer, assistant director of the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs, said yesterday that consumers with paid memberships in the Virginia clubs have until June 15 to file claims for refunds. To qualify, the consumer must have joined or renewed membership in one of the Virginia clubs since April 27, 1982, and have had a contract in effect when the clubs ceased operation.
Claim forms are available at local consumer offices in the areas where the clubs were located, he said. Members of the Fun & Fitness Clubs in Manassas and Woodbridge can contact the consumer office in Woodbridge at 221-4156; in Springfield call the Fairfax County office at 691-3214, and in Arlington call the Arlington office at 558-2142.
Jean Galloway, director of the Arlington office, said that forms would be sent automatically to the 530 consumers who have contacted her office since the clubs closed. They will be mailed by early April, she said.
The forms should be filled out and returned with proof of membership and payment of membership, such as copies of canceled checks or receipts, which can be used to establish the value of the unused membership, she said.
If consumer claims exceed the $50,000 that is available, the refunds to qualifying consumers will be prorated, officials said.
In Maryland, the attorney general's office has been trying to get the management of the Fun & Fitness Clubs and two other clubs that closed in the Washington area, Mother's Gym and Nautilus of White Flint, to voluntarily turn over an official list of members.
It is unclear when Maryland consumers will start getting refunds. Assistant Attorney General Peter Berns said yesterday no refunds can be paid until all consumer claims have been established because if claims exceed the $50,000 bond money refunds would be prorated, he said.
To apply for a health club refund in Maryland, consumers should write to the Maryland attorney general's office, Consumer Protection Division, 7 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21202, or call 528-8662 or 576-6550.