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Archive for Thursday, October 24, 2002

Attorney general accuses Sixth Street Fitness, Total Fitness of deceptive practices

October 24, 2002

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Kansas Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lawrence area residents who felt they were mistreated by Sixth Street Fitness Club when it closed April 30.

Stovall's office recently filed a consumer protection lawsuit in Douglas County District Court against Donald Booth, former owner of Sixth Street Fitness, and Martin Tuley, owner of Total Fitness Athletic Center. The lawsuit stems from when Sixth Street Fitness closed in late April and reached a deal with Total Fitness Athletic Center to take over the club's approximately 600 memberships.

The lawsuit alleges the two men engaged in "deceptive and unconscionable business practices" by telling club members they were obligated to fulfill their Sixth Street memberships at Total Fitness.

Mark Ohlemeier, a spokesman with the Attorney General's Office, said the lawsuit alleged Booth and Tuley told members the arrangement was a merger of the two clubs when legally it was not.

"By using the term merger, we think they deceived these consumers," Ohlemeier said.

The lawsuit doesn't seek a specific amount of damages, but Ohlemeier said refunds for Sixth Street members who were forced to fulfill their contracts may be possible.

Tuley declined to comment on the case, but Booth said he had been in discussions with the Attorney General's Office to settle the case out of court.

"I thought we were going to settle it, but now I guess I don't know," Booth said. "The only thing I can say is we did what we thought was best for the members."

Crystal Swearingen, a former Sixth Street member who complained about her membership being transferred to Total Fitness, said she was pleased the attorney general was taking action.

Swearingen said several members were upset with the deal Sixth Street struck with Total Fitness because several Sixth Street members joined the club specifically because they had bad experiences at Total Fitness. At the time, other members said they didn't want to join the facility because it wasn't convenient to their homes, she said.

Swearingen said she hoped the court would award refunds to members who were forced to honor their contracts at Total Fitness.

Swearingen said she signed a one-year contract to use the Sixth Street facility and paid for the first six months. After using the facility for one month, she was forced to switch to Total Fitness, which she didn't want to do. Total Fitness released her from the final six months of her contract but didn't refund the five months of membership dues that she had pre-paid. She estimated her loss at about $140.

Ohlemeier said 13 members of Sixth Street had filed formal complaints against the two companies. He said several other members called to complain but did not file an official complaint.

For more information, call the Consumer Protection Division of the Kansas Attorney General's Office at (785) 296-2215.

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