BBB Advises Consumers to Be Wary When Using Dating Services, Web sites to Find Valentines

  
     
February 24, 2011
Looking for love online or through a traditional dating service may seem like an easy way to spice up your social life, but consumers tell Better Business Bureau that some services have left them frustrated and disappointed.

Consumers from all over the country filed complaints with BBB about dating services last year. Complaints concerned customer service, billing issues, sales practices and difficulty canceling contracts.  

Matchmaking and dating services often promise to introduce people to other area singles that meet specified criteria. However, many services also generate complaints about the quality of matches they make and their cost, which can run to thousands of dollars.

Many complaints about the dating service industry concern personalized matchmaking companies and online dating websites. The two services take different approaches to helping people find love and lead to different types of complaints.

Common matchmaking complaints include:

  • Failure to match with singles that met specified criteria: Non-smoking complainants said they were matched with people who smoke, well-educated people were matched with less-educated ones or religious people were matched with atheists or people from other religions. Some were matched with people who lived too far away or were married.
  • Use of intimidating or duplicitous sales tactics: Complainants reported being yelled at, being told to not be so picky or being completely ignored by the companies involved.
  • Failure to deliver: Complainants were told the service had a database of thousands of singles, but they didn’t receive the promised number of dates or introductions. Others said a singles club sponsored events to bring singles together but the events didn’t live up to their billing.

Online dating service complaints include:
  • Minimum enrollment period: Online dating services normally require a specific length of membership and charge a monthly fee, which is renewed automatically when it expires. Either the customer didn’t realize the steps needed to cancel the account, or the consumer took the necessary steps but billing continued anyway.
  • Inability to cancel: Consumers said some companies wouldn’t allow them to cancel the contract after being dissatisfied with the company and its process.
BBB offers the following advice on matchmaking and online dating services:
  • Don’t fall in love with the advertising. Be skeptical of claims such as “an exclusive network of people,” “for sincere daters only” or “beautiful singles just like you.” BBB’s National Advertising Division recently decided a case between rival online services, requiring one to stop advertising that its methods were based on “the latest science of attraction.”
  • Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics. Sales associates may tell you that a low price is only good for that day and ask you to sign a contract immediately. You should take the contract home, read it carefully and make sure you understand what you are signing and paying for.
  • Know how to break up. Consumers should not assume that they will stop being billed once the contract runs out. Many online dating sites automatically renew memberships. Usually you must call the company or send written instructions to avoid being billed again. Know in advance what you need to do to cancel.
  • Beware of demands by a match to send money. Some scams that match men with foreign women typically include a request to send money to pay for a trip to the United States, using a wire service like Moneygram or Western Union. The woman never makes the trip, and the money can’t be recovered.
  • Do your homework. Ask to speak to other members or customers of the service about their experiences.
  • Check the company’s BBB Reliability Report by calling (520)888-5353 or by going online to www.tucson.bbb.org.