|If your gym doesn't allow this,....you are in the wrong place.|
A Tempe man is suing LA Fitness for fraud, contending that staff members used his electronic signature to charge him for more than $1,200 in services he did not want or need.
Benjamin Calleros, 22, said LA Fitness drained his bank account of money set aside for tuition when staff members fraudulently signed him up for personal-training services.
The lawsuit mirrors hundreds of concerns posted on consumer-protection websites alleging that LA Fitness bills for unrequested services, continues auto-deducting monthly fees after contracts are canceled and refuses to reimburse once fees are collected.
"I was never someone who thought I would sue anyone," said Calleros, who is a film student at Scottsdale Community College. "But somebody needs to stand up."
LA Fitness officials in Arizona and at its headquarters in California did not respond to repeated requests for interviews.
Phoenix lawyer Tom Burke, who represents the LA Fitness in this case, said Thursday that the lawsuit would be challenged in court.
"We deny the allegations," he said, without discussing specifics of the case.
Phoenix lawyer Van O'Steen, who is representing Calleros, said the lawsuit raises larger questions about the way electronic signatures are collected via remote devices.
"These electronic-signature pads are the equivalent of someone signing a blank piece of paper," he said. "(Calleros) was told he was signing a waiver. ... He hadn't signed a waiver at all, but a personal-training contract."
O'Steen questioned whether the electronic-signature pads, which are similar to those in retail stores where purchasers sign credit agreements, should be used for contracts and other complex documents.
Calleros said shortly after he purchased a $24-per-month gym membership at the LA Fitness at Southern and Mill avenues in Tempe, he was offered a free training assessment.
Calleros said once the personal trainer fished the assessment, he asked Calleros to sign up for personal training. Calleros said he declined and was asked to sign a waiver on a small hand-held electronic-signature pad.
In his lawsuit, Calleros contends that his signature was pasted on a personal-training contract that allowed LA Fitness to electronically deduct payments from the same account that he was using to pay his gym membership. It was an account he used rarely, and primarily for college expenses.
O'Steen said that the signature on the contract, which he and Calleros believe originated from the signature pad, appears "small, compressed and is floating well above the signature line" where the date is typed on the form.
He compares it with Calleros' signature on the gym-membership contract, which is bold, crosses the signature line and is dated in Calleros' own hand.
Felix Mendiola, the LA Fitness personal trainer named in the lawsuit, said Thursday that he could not comment on the case.
"There is a lot that I would love to say about it," he said, referring questions to his lawyer. "When the truth of the matter comes out, I don't feel that it will be an issue."
LA Fitness is a member of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, headquartered in Boston.
A representative said Thursday that the association could not talk about specific court cases. But as a member of the association, LA Fitness must abide by a code-of-conduct policy that prohibits "illegal activities and deceptive sales practices."
The code also requires LA Fitness to deliver services as promised and to conduct business "in a manner that commands the respect of the public for our industry."
Calleros said he didn't discover the account was depleted until five months after he joined the gym, when his tuition payment was returned for insufficient funds. That's when he said he discovered LA Fitness had been debiting $240-a-month charges.
Calleros said at first he believed it was just a billing mistake. But when he tried to address the issue, a variety of customer-service issues -- including three dropped calls, unreturned calls and phone transfers to nowhere -- he became convinced it was something more, he said.
Consumer-protection websites include complaints over billing issues from individuals claiming to be former and current LA Fitness members across the country. Many sites such as RipOff Report, Consumer Affairs and ComplaintWire include complaints from consumers who said they were billed for unrequested services.
"I have made attempts for nearly three months to cancel my membership," an individual named Onlife9 wrote on ComplaintWire in December. "My bank has advised me to cancel my debit card to ensure no future withdrawals can be made from my account."
|If you see this, it's probably a good gym.|