"You get the hard sell and then you can't get rid of them. It is like trying to shake a pit bull off your leg," says the clear-spoken DeRoche, who is well known for standing up for clients doing battle with big companies.
Now, a critical mass of current and former Urban Active members are lining up against Urban Active in a class-action suit that alleges the fitness club regularly makes it difficult to impossible to cancel club memberships.
"They take two, three, four months to recognize a valid cancellation and in the meantime they are charging your credit card or your debit account, and then it is hard if not impossible to get the money back," says DeRoche.
The lead plaintiff in the suit is a 22-year-old young man from Rocky River, Ohio, who tried to cancel his membership after he found out he had to have knee surgery then discovered that Urban Active would not allow him to terminate the contract as he anticipated.
"I have another client whose membership has been inactive for seven years and they went back and started applying charges to his credit card," says DeRoche.
Urban Active also has clubs in seven other states where members are also complaining about its cancellation policy and DeRoche is considering amending the complaint to include more potential plaintiffs. "I am looking at expanding the complaint beyond Ohio, to include other states primarily in the Midwest, and Kentucky is their base," he says.
"Essentially they are in the practice of failing to provide refunds to people who have a legal right to cancel their membership and receive a refund," says DeRoche.
The complaint alleges Urban Active is in violation of state consumer laws in Ohio and breach of contract. It asks that money be refunded to members who had a legal right to cancel their contract.
James DeRoche has been a practicing lawyer for 20 years. He has extensive expertise as a trial lawyer and has brought cases to successful conclusions in both federal and state courts. Every June, DeRoche does a three-bike marathon to raise money for muscular dystrophy research.