AG Van Hollen: Sues Athletic Club of Madison

For More Information Contact:

Bill Cosh 608/266-1221

MADISON — The Department of Justice has filed an enforcement action in Dane County Circuit Court against the Athletic Club of Madison, LLC, and its owner, Mario Chmiel, an Illinois resident. The complaint alleges that the company has committed numerous violations of Wisconsin’s consumer protection laws regulating fitness centers.

According to the complaint, the Athletic Club of Madison opened a fitness facility in late 2008 or early 2009, at 625 North Segoe Road in Madison. The club sold memberships of varying lengths to hundreds of consumers, some of whom prepaid their memberships. In May 2009, the club was sued for eviction for non-payment of rent, and abruptly closed on July 15, 2009. Earlier that same day, the Athletic Club allegedly had accepted approximately $13,000 in automatic payments from members who paid monthly–to cover the following month of services.

Wisconsin law requires that a fitness center refund to its members the unused portion of their prepaid membership and other fees if it ceases operation; the lawsuit alleges the Athletic Club has failed to make the required refunds.

The complaint also alleges that the defendants continued to sell long-term, prepaid memberships even after the eviction action had been filed, without informing consumers that the club was likely to close. Finally, the complaint asserts that the defendants failed to obtain a bond or other guarantee of financial responsibility as required by the fitness center law.

The state complaint asks the Court to order the defendants to pay full restitution to all of the club’s members injured by defendants’ conduct; to impose forfeitures and penalties, which can range from $100 to $10,000 per violation; and to enjoin the company from future unlawful behavior.

The case was investigated and referred to the Department of Justice by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General John S. Greene.