CURVES: Complaints of Unauthorized Membership Charges
Most of the Curves for Women comments and emails we receive are requests for guidance and/or complaints from struggling Curves franchisees. However, we do receive complaints about Curve franchisees. The most common complaint regards the unauthorized billing of membership fees from ex-members.
Curves ex-member still billed 5 years later
Several different scenarios have prompted these complaints. One of the strangest was the recent report in the Chicago Tribune of a member who was billed $117 by the Curves club in Park Ridge, IL 5 years after she had cancelled her membership. The franchise owner, Michelle Aviles, claimed “the $117 was withdrawn from Bichkoff’s bank account after Curves for Women changed its accounting system in July. Due to a glitch in the process, some former members were accidentally charged.”
The franchise owner apologized and promised a refund. Months passed. The member never heard from her, nor received the refund. The ex-member drove to the club only to find it shuttered. She called Curves International, which was no help. She only got action after getting the Tribune’s Consumer Watch columnist (The Problem Solver) involved. She’s still waiting for the check.
The franchise owner seemed contrite about the supposed “mix-up,” but why did they even have this ex-members credit card information on file after 5 years? Was this really an honest mistake? How many others were “accidentally” billed right before the club closed? Have they received refunds?
Complaints about billing before a club closure
Member complaints have also been lodged by those who claim that they were charged for membership fees shortly before a Curves club closed. Members feel bad that the club closed, but protest that that’s not their problem. Curves franchise owners are entrusted with their private billing information. Some have asked: If owners abuse that trust and bill them for services they know will never be provided, isn’t that fraud? How can they complain about Curves International, they ask, when they are, in essence, stealing from their members?
Complaints about inflated memberships prior to selling a club
One of the most disturbing stories was from a franchisee who bought an established club from a Curves franchisee. The price was based on having an established base of paying customers. After the sale, the franchise buyer changed billing companies, which resulted in “Curves” showing up on credit card statements instead of a more generic company name used by the previous owner. Slews of outraged ex-members realized that they had been billed for membership dues long after they had terminated their memberships. The new owner not only claimed to be a victim of a fraudulent sale, but was maligned in the community for the unauthorized charges.
How many other credit cards of Curves ex-members are being charged each month? It makes you wonder.
Here’s the Question: How widespread is the practice of questionable or fraudulent billing by desperate Curves franchise owners?
11 thoughts on “CURVES: Complaints of Unauthorized Membership Charges”
I can tell you from experience that the practice that is mentioned in the last paragraph is what I believe to be a common practice in all health and fitness clubs where a contract is signed and not a month to month membership. With Curves the member signs what they believe is a one year membership agreement but in reality it is automatically renewed each year unless the member sends in a written notice. Other wise the automatic draft from their account (PAC) continues for two years. While Curves contract is a binding agreement the same as most health clubs for the two year term it has always been the rule that the member can quit but must pay a cancellation fee of ten dollars per month up to fifty dollars for the months that they were members. I don’t believe that many owners charge after the member has officially quit by handing in a written notice but I’m sure it does happen. I do know from our experience with closing a club that some laddies are unaware of how the billing cycle goes as we had one women complain about paying for a month that she has stated she didn’t get the service as we closed right after her fees were deducted from her account. She stated that she had put a stop payment on the account at her bank. I don’t believe that was the case as we had no returned charges the last month that the club was open and we haven’t heard anything about it since. We did explain to all our members that the payment deducted from their accounts that last month was for that month even though it was drawn on the 20th of the month. We always did billing on the 5th and the 20th of each month for the month that it was drawn on. I would be more concerned about the membership prepays that each owner has that closed and if they were refunded or transferred to another club and if the prepay was honored at the club the member transferred too.
There are a lot of curves owners now days that don’t follow what use to curves policy of not trying to collect bad checks or accounts with a past due balance from members who have quit coming in to work out. They are even bragging and posting on the other site about charging 25 dollars for returned checks plus a bank fee which only hurts all curves owners as the members tend to talk to other women and word of mouth is of course the best form of advertising when its positive not negative. He uses the excuse that its a business and his money and that the members that do that are dead beats and can’t talk and chew gum at the same time. But in reality all he is doing hurting all of then Curves reputation and acting like Howie.
“With Curves the member signs what they believe is a one year membership agreement but in reality it is automatically renewed each year unless the member sends in a written notice. Other wise the automatic draft from their account (PAC) continues for two years.”
Does Curves encourage franchisees not to do anything that would call attention to the actual terms of the agreement? At what point do club owners realize that part of their revenue is going to be fees members don’t know they’re paying or are obligated to pay?
This sounds like a classic scam where the victims are complicit in some shady dealings.
Believe it or not that is how all health clubs work. Most of the clubs have you sign a contract which is binding and you are not allowed to quit. Even if you quit coming you are still obligated to pay and most will take you to collections if your automatic draft is returned. Most of the abuses with curves comes when a member sends in a written notice to cancel and the owner doesn’t cancel the draft. It does happen but to what degree I don’t know but it is not policy. No Curves does not recommend that you call attention to the actual terms of the agreement but as an owner most do or I should say we always did and we insisted that all trainers when signing up a member had the member initial the clauses in the contract where it states that the cancellation must be in writing and the buy out fee. Not all owners do that and Curves International does not instruct owners to do that which they should.
Wow! It is amazing how everyone seems to have their own explanation of the 12 month agreement. We do “read” to our customers the clause about the membership continuing on until a 30 day written notice, but at no time did I see that this was a 2 yr. agreement. We have members who are working out that have been here since we opened in 2003 and they have never even questioned what or when their membership was over. But, on the other side of the coin, we do have members who have come once and awhile and some who haven’t been here for some time and are still being drafted. Members receive a bank statement just as I do. Who doesn’t look at their statement? It amazes me!!! Ocassionally, we archieve some of the ladies who aren’t showing up without them cancelling. We do, however, put a note on their file screen that they did not cancel just incase they return so that they can be kept at the $29.00 fee. By the way………We always followed Curves policy of $29 and $39. When Curves Smart came we went to $34 and $44 and, of course, those not doing Curves Smart stayed at the grandfather payment of $29.
Curves owners and members alike need to realize that the membership contracts are governed by the laws of EACH state and each state has different laws and regulations that must be followed. Members should READ their contracts – it’s a legal document! Members receive a discounted monthly rate for signing a 12-month minimum commitment. After that initial 12-month period some states require that a new contract be signed, in other states the contract continues until the member cancels. Thirty day written notice to cancel is required.
The problem is Sue that the majority of owners who are left are the ones that never obeyed the rules and built on the territory line or had equipment not authorized by CI in order to entice members from the competing club that was in the center of ones territory. As a result they are ruining the reputation of Curves as they over charge and continue to charge even after a cancellation. Than if the member refuses to pay they send her to collection. It has always been corporate policy that if a member wanted to quit let them out of the contract by paying a difference of 10 per month ( the difference between month to month and 12 month contract) up to 50 dollars. Now some unscrupulous owners are charging over a 100 dollars to cancel. And some won’t allow the member to cancel; Is it no wonder why the Curves brand is in the toilet.
I want to close my membership to Curves from the Grants Pass, OR (South) chapter. They just fired their best employee due to new management taking over and wanting to hire their friends. They did not give her the required two week notice yet—I have to give them a month notice that I’m no longer wanting to be a member.
I have a charge of 34.00 for a curves international membership fee. I haven’t been a member in eight years….I can’t believe this!!!! Talking to attorney general’s office today.
Thanks for posting your complaint about an unauthorized Curves charge to your credit card.
I have been writing about this widespread problem not only with Curves but many health clubs.
I want to offer you some advice: Check your past credit card statements for unknown charges in the same amount or slightly different amounts. Worst case, you may have been paying this charge for 8 years but didn’t recognize the name, then a new owner or processing company took over and the name started to show as “Curves” instead of some generic or numeric name.
I have written about this happening with others. Old owners continue to bill cancelled customers, then sell their Curves to a new owner who thinks all members are legit. They change the processing account and the defrauded members suddenly realize they’ve been getting billed fraudulently for years.
Check to see if there’s a new Curves owner at your former club. If there is, chances are the new owners are not the ones to blame but are also victims of the previous owner as they paid for a club based on a fraudulent member count.
Definitely get your Attorney General involved. Depending on your state, they are pretty proactive in going after consumer fraud, especially regarding health clubs.
Also, call your credit card company and ask for the anti-fraud department. The major ones are very good about billing back fraudulent charges and scams. But first make sure it’s just that single charge and that you haven’t been getting billed for 8 years – which happens more than you’d think.
Good luck & keep us posted.
I just discovered that the Curves franchisee in Yuba City California, has been withdrawing $29 each month from my wife’s checking account for ten years. My wife attended once, and thought she signed a one-year contract. The entity she signed up with was Bosanek Enterprises, Inc.. It apparently sold out in 2007 to Daniel Robert Duran and Jennifer Lynn Duran. The Duran’s put the franchise into a corporation (Duran Health Solutions, Inc.) in 2007. Between these people, someone has been taking our money for ten years.
There is a law the covers in California, the Health Studio Law, title 2.5 (commencing with section 1812.80 of the Civil Code. At the time of our contract it required a written contract with the term of not more than 3 years and the length of the term spelled out in 14-point type, or the contract is void. there are other requirements, but this was the biggest single problem with our contract. The law provides for the possibility of treble (triple the losses) damages. I don’t think this contract “automatically renews,” Instead, it is written as indefinite the contract continues without renewal until my wife cancels, according to words.
The franchisee has stopped the drafts but has not offered to refund any money.