The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs announced Thursday it has assessed $283,500 in penalties against 53 health clubs in that state for their alleged failure to comply with New Jersey's consumer protection laws.

The division assessed a total of $165,000 in civil penalties against 31 unregistered health clubs, according to a press release. New Jersey law requires that all health clubs that devote at least 40 percent of their floor space to physical fitness services must register with the Division of Consumer Affairs and provide information about their ownership and operations.

The division also assessed $118,500 in penalties against 22 health clubs that are registered but allegedly violated New Jersey law by selling longer-term contracts to members without maintaining a required security bond or letter of credit. Under state law, any health club that offers contracts for longer than three months must post a security bond or letter of credit with the Division of Consumer Affairs.

"When consumers pay for a gym membership, they need to know the gym will be held accountable for maintaining its side of the contract," New Jersey Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said in a statement. "That is the purpose of our registration laws and other requirements. We are citing these health clubs for their alleged failure to comply with these consumer protection laws."

In addition to the fines, the division issued notices of violation, which allege that the health clubs violated New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act and/or the state's statutes and regulations governing health clubs. Division investigators conducted site visits at 72 health clubs statewide to observe their facilities and business operations and obtain copies of contracts and other documents. They then compared that information with the state's registration records.

The division released a list of unregistered health clubs in the state as well as a list of registered health clubs that allegedly are not bonded with the state.