tanning salon contractsA chain of tanning salons that generated hundreds of complaints about deceptive sales tactics and misleading contracts has agreed to pay $350,000 and change the way it does business. The agreement settles charges lodged against the company At The Beach by the Colorado Attorney General's office.

At The Beach, which operates about 50 locations in three states, also agreed to surveillance to ensure consumers are no longer being misled.The agreement requires At The Beach to stop the alleged deceptive sales practices and record all of its future sales conversations with consumers, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said in a statement. The company also agreed to pay about $350,000 in consumer restitution, fines and attorney fees.

"This agreement is a victory for the hundreds of Colorado consumers who felt that At The Beach was not engaging in fair sales practices," Suthers said. "We believe the company's agreement to record all sales transactions will deter future misconduct, and is evidence of the company's desire to change its sales practices."

At The Beach employees said that consumers could "cancel their contract at any time," according to the state's complaint. Former employees and consumers told investigators that the company didn't disclose that cancellation would require paying half of the remaining contract costs, Suthers said. Consumers also said they learned of the cancellation fee when they attempted to cancel, he added.

The settlement requires At The Beach to:
  • Install recording equipment in all of its stores and keep an audio copy of every sale.
  • Update its contracts to require initialing from consumers throughout the document.
  • Simplify the documentation required to cancel a contract when moving outside the company's service areas.
In a statement about the settlement, Judson Kinkade, vice president for corporate development for At The Beach, said the company cares about its customers and providing superior customer service.

"We have worked with the attorney general and the Better Business Bureau to improve our policies to ensure customer satisfaction and reliability," Kinkade said. "Going forward we are dedicated to providing a premium tanning experience and outstanding customer service."

When consumers sign tanning contracts, they should be sure to read the fine print and understand the terms of the contract, especially how the contract can be canceled.

The Federal Trade Commission also advises consumers to look out for advertising claims such as "Get a beautiful tan indoors without increasing risk of skin cancer" or "Indoor tanning is safer than the sun because the environment is controlled."

Other consumer advice: People who use tanning salons should wear the tanning goggles provided and follow the exposure times recommended by the manufacturer, advises the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Indoor Tanning: The Risks of Ultraviolet Rays.

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