Fitness clubs continuing to bill customers after they've cancelled their membership is among the top five complaints received by the Better Business Bureau, with the number of people complaining growing each year.

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The Better Business Bureau received 654 complaints about fitness clubs in 2008, a five-fold increase in just five years. ((iStock))

In 2008, consumers complained to the bureau 654 times about billing problems at their gym, which was five times more than complained in 2004.

When Mary Jo Morrison of Toronto tried canceling her membership, she learned how difficult, frustrating and expensive it could be.

She went to her gym and cancelled in person, only to find her bank account was still being debited for monthly fees.

"I called them up and said, 'Why charge me?'" she told CBC News. "They said, 'No problem. Just send me a written fax saying you wish to cancel again,' and I did. I faxed them," she explained.

'I checked my statement again, and they were still charging me.'—Mary Jo Morrison, former gym member

"[I] never heard anything about it again until I checked my statement again, and they were still charging me."

She put a stop payment on her account and assumed the matter was closed.

The gym responded by sending Morrison a letter saying she owed $400, because she couldn't prove she had cancelled her contract.

When the gym threatened to turn the account over to a collection agency, she reached an agreement to pay $200 to make the problem go away.

John Lawford of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre says it all comes down to cancelling properly. He says simply telling the gym is not enough.

"It is better to write a letter, send it to the gym and to the gym's head office, and you have evidence you quit," he told CBC News.

"It is a problem you can make into the bank's problem and the gym's rather than your problem."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story referred to the lawyer for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre as James Lawford. His correct name is John Lawford.
    Sep 21, 2010 10:55 AM ET