Lexington-based fitness club chain Urban Active has agreed to settle a lawsuit in Northern Kentucky over its billing practices, and the settlement will offer a free month's access to tens of thousands of customers across the state.
The case was filed in 2009 after the plaintiffs canceled their membership but continued having money withdrawn from their bank accounts, said their attorney Charles Lester Jr.
He said Urban Active also made canceling memberships difficult for consumers, a practice that drew increased scrutiny last year, when the Better Business Bureau gave the company a grade of "F."
The chain vowed to dedicate an employee full-time to resolving customer complaints.
"We're at the point now where they have finally decided it was worth their while to try to settle this thing," Lester said.
Urban Active declined to comment other than to state it is participating in the settlement process supervised by the courts.
The settlement covers people with contracts for gym access, playroom services, tanning or personal training from Nov. 1, 2007, to June 22, 2012. The contracts had to be either signed in Kentucky or a consumer had to have used the services at facilities in Kentucky.
The settlement benefits are:
■ Those with gym memberships will receive a free 30-day membership.
■ Those with playroom contracts will receive a month of free child-care service.
■ Those with tanning contracts will receive three free tanning sessions.
■ Those with personal training contracts will receive a free group personal training session.
"The settlement provides everybody in the class, whether they had a problem with (Urban Active) or not, a benefit," Lester said. "If you're someone who's really disgusted with them and never want to go back, you may not want to use it.
"But it provides a benefit to everybody in the class regardless of whether they had any problems."
Urban Active has sent emails and postcards to past and present members for which they have contact information on file. Affected consumers can file their claims on Globalfitnesssettlement.com.
In total, nearly 93,000 members are being contacted, Lester said. Claims must be filed on the Web site or through other methods by Aug. 31.
The court will have a hearing Oct. 19 on whether to approve the settlement.
The settlement also calls for Urban Active to refund charges incurred by members if they can prove they were improperly billed after canceling contracts.
Since last year, the company — which according to its Web site has locations throughout Kentucky and Ohio as well as Nashville, Atlanta, Omaha, Pittsburgh and Charlotte, N.C. — has raised its Better Business Bureau rating from an "F" to a "C." Because Urban Active is based in Lexington, the Better Business Bureau of Central and Eastern Kentucky processes all complaints against the company.
In the past three years, there have been 1,568 complaints closed; 385 of those were in the last year.
Better Business Bureau spokeswoman Heather Clary said, "They have been making an effort and have been responding in a timely manner to anything we have sent their way."
Scott Sloan is a member of Urban Active. He can be reached at (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HLbusiness