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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > December 2016 > Resolve to Make Healthy Goals, not Financial Headache

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Resolve to Make Healthy Goals, not Financial Headache

You may have the best of intentions to become healthier in the New Year, but before purchasing a product or service, be sure to do your homework to help prevent a well-intentioned goal from becoming a disappointment.
We’ve outlined tips to help you make the most of your New Year’s purchases and avoid potential problems.
Gym Memberships
Before signing up for a gym membership, search for any complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and your local Better Business Bureau. Common complaints include billing disputes, cancellation policy problems, and fitness centers closing without notice. 
Typically, you will sign a contract when signing up for a gym membership. As with any other contracts, read the entire document to make sure you understand all the terms and ensure that any promises made by a salesperson are included in the contract.
Under Ohio law, gym membership contracts should not last longer than three years. Also, under Ohio law, you generally have three business days (excluding Sundays or legal holidays) from the date you sign the contract to cancel it in full at no cost to you. Before signing the contract, ask about the facility’s cancellation policy, and determine what your responsibilities are if you decide to end the contract early. 
Dietary Supplements
Dietary supplements are popular in the weight-loss industry and often claim to be a quick and easy solution for weight loss. These supplements may advertise fast results, but it is important to research products before trying them. Look online for reviews from others who have tried the product and can detail if the product worked for them. Also, check for any scientific research conducted on the product.
Automatic Renewals (or “Negative Option”)
Be on the lookout for “negative option” contracts with gym memberships and dietary supplements. Under negative option plans, the consumers’ contract auto-renews and customers are charged automatically unless they take proactive steps to cancel. For example, a gym might automatically renew an annual membership by charging the consumer’s credit card for the next year when the first year is about to expire. When buying dietary supplements online, look for any commitments you may be making by clicking (or not unclicking) boxes on the offer page. If a deal includes a “free” or “no obligation” trial, be especially careful about whether you are making future commitments.
Gift Cards
If you buy or receive a gift card to a day spa or fitness center, make sure to check the details. Gift cards receive protections under both state and federal law. Under Ohio law, gift cards in any form – electronic, paper, or otherwise – generally cannot expire for at least two years. Under federal law, gift cards issued in electronic format for a specific amount cannot expire for a minimum of five years. But “bonus gift cards,” which are common around the holidays, are not subject to the same rules. For example, if you buy a $100 gift card and get a $20 gift card for free, the $20 gift card may expire sooner. 
If you suspect a scam or unfair business practice, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-282-0515 or visiting