23 Sep Beware Bally's Bills
Have you ever quit Bally’s Total Fitness? If so, you might be getting an invitation to re-join. The “invitation” comes in the form of a bill that looks a lot like a demand for payment of a past due bill.
In fact, it is a bill. For “past due” amounts. On the back of the statements, it includes warnings that if you have past due amount, there is a message to that effect on the front of the statement, and it includes the FDCPA mini-Miranda warnings that “this is an attempt to collect a debt” and that failure to pay may result in a negative report to a credit bureau.
But, as the Consumerist is reporting, if you quit your membership and actually don’t owe anything, Bally’s claims this is not a bill or a threat to damage your credit or try to collect anything, it is only an option for those who did quit to reinstate their membership.
An example of the bill is on the Consumerist website here. How does one tell if Bally’s is actually attempting to collect a debt that you dispute or trying to con you into rejoining — and giving them a credit card number they will bill until you tell them to stop? Well, you can’t tell. In fact, you can’t tell from the statement that anything about this is an “offer” to reinstate your membership.
In reality, Bally’s is effectively threatening to take your credit rating hostage if you don’t rejoin. Bally’s may claim that this threat isn’t real because they will only attempt to collect “past due” balances from folks who actually owe them money, not from folks who canceled and owe nothing. In which case, it would appear that Bally’s is using obviously deceptive and misleading efforts to solicit members.
How desperate does a company have to be for it to try to trick former customers into coming back by threatening to come after them for non-existent debt?
Presumably this ploy by Bally’s will be shut down fairly quickly either because of the publicity or because a few government agencies will take an interest. In the meantime, if anyone actually paid money to Bally’s under these false pretenses, they should be speaking to a lawyer.
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