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What is the best way to deal with a in house collections agency if I have no copy of my contract? What should I do?

Baltimore, MD |

I was doing volunteer work in another state for a couple months last year and my boss at the time bought everyone gym memberships but the gyms ownership changed hands to another gym after I joined. My former boss tried to cancel the membership towards the end of the year but the manager at the gym said my name was not in the system. So the membership was never actually canceled and he just kept paying them monthly until his card expired early this year. Over 6 months ago I get a email from the gym telling me that my gym dues are overdue and to call their billing agency. I called them and they sent a notice in the mail to my home address. I email the billing agency telling them I want it canceled but they tell me to send $55 to finalize my cancellation and my gym membership will terminate at the end of the month. I read online how people who pay up are called up months later where they are hassled for $200 and sent to collections if they don't pay. The billing agency for the gym has a terrible reputation at telling people their memberships are canceled but then months later calls them again demanding more money or they hire attorneys into frightening people to pay more I send a dispute letter within 30 days of their notice via certified mail. A month later they sent me a notice in the mail saying I owe $150 but no contract like I asked. A few weeks later the billing agency's in house collection agency calls the person I remember listing as my emergency contact who answered the phone. The same number calls me a couple weeks later and I didn't answer. My former coworker's contract (who joined the gym after it changed ownership) states that the gym has the right to send it to collections and/or attorney and they can void the agreement when it becomes a delinquent account and the member is responsible for any costs hereunder. I don't have a copy of my contract and if the billing agency actually had it I could set up an account on their online membership and find it there but I'm afraid that might make them think that I'm using the gym. My former boss had my contract at the time but threw it away. The in house collections agency has been calling nonstop the past month leaving a VM with a reference number but I never answer and haven't received anything in the mail. I've read online how the in house collection agency refuse to put anything in writing until people pay the settlement amount. I'm afraid if I did this though it would make my situation worse for obvious legal reasons. I checked my credit report and its been over 6 months since the membership defaulted and they still haven't reported it to a credit bureau. I'd call them and work something out if I thought this nightmare would end but I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. Please help.

Attorney Answers 3

  1. You may be in a stronger position than you think. If ownership changed hands, they may not have a contract they can enforce against you. I would either tell them to provide you with a copy of the contract, or send them a letter describing how the contract would have been canceled by the boss if they had records that allowed them to find you in the system. Hopefully they will realize they don't have any right to collect any longer.

  2. Request a copy of your contract. If you pay anything to anyone, get it in writing. If you feel as though you are being harassed, submit a report with all the details to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. See link below. Good luck!

    The answers posted are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney in your jurisdiction to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  3. My colleagues are correct. To enforce a debt, the collection agency has to prove that it properly acquired the debt from the previous gym. The collection agency should also have a copy of your contract -- without a contract, it can't prove that you owe the debt. Notwithstanding the proof issue, collection agencies must adhere to Federal and State laws regarding debt collections. There are things you can do, i.e. write a letter contesting the debt, and requesting that you not be contacted anymore. For more information, you can click on the link below:

    DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided for informational purposes only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice relating to your specific situation, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney in your area. NO COMMUNICATIONS WITH ME ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS ARISING FROM AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WILL BE ESTABLISHED WITH ME UNLESS I HAVE EXPRESSLY AGREED TO UNDERTAKE YOUR REPRESENTATION, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXECUTION OF A WRITTEN AGREEMENT OF RETAINER.

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