ARLINGTON, VA. – February 4, 2008 –
For those people looking to find the man or woman of their dreams, Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that complaints against matchmaking and online dating services are on the rise and many consumers across the U.S. have gone looking for love but only found a headache.
Consumer complaints filed with BBB on dating services increased 73 percent in 2006 over the previous year, reaching 2,525 complaints altogether. While final complaint numbers for 2007 are still forthcoming, early analysis shows that the numbers of complaints in 2007 are expected to again reach record-breaking levels for the industry.
“Americans spend hundreds of millions of dollars on online dating sites alone every year and as the popularity of the industry increases so does the number of complaints BBB receives,” said Steve Cox, spokesperson for BBB. “Whether you’re willing to pay thousands for a matchmaker or 50 dollars a month for a Web site membership, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into and exactly how to get out of it.”
The dating services industry is basically divided into two categories: more-personalized matchmaking companies and online dating Web sites. The two services take a different approach to helping people find love and as a result, the types of complaints to BBB are divergent. Matchmaking Complaints
Matchmaking and local dating services, which can cost thousands of dollars, promise to introduce people to other area singles that meet specified criteria. An analysis of available complaint data reveals that the most common complaints for matchmaking services are:
• Disputes over the caliber and demographics of available singles promised (35 percent). A significant number of complainants said they were matched with singles that did not meet their specified criteria—common complaints include that the singles they were set up with were smokers, uneducated, not religious, lived too far away and some were even married.
• Poor or rude customer service (17.0 percent) and high pressure sales tactics (13.7 percent). Many complainants reported being intimidated or outright duped by sales associates into signing up for matchmaking services. Also, considering the high cost of matchmaking services, many felt they didn’t receive the level of customer service they deserved. Complainants reported being yelled at, others were told to not be so picky, and many said they were simply completely ignored by the respective companies involved.
• Dissatisfaction with the number of arranged dates (15.1 percent). Matchmaking services often say they have a database of thousands of singles in the area and promise a minimum number of dates. Complaints show that matchmaking services often failed to deliver on the quota of promised dates. For example, promising 10 dates, but delivering only two.
Following is an excerpt from consumer complaints to BBB on matchmaking services.
“They indicated they had thousands of people in their database. I have had four referrals since joining and only one of which remotely matched me. The others were smokers, high school dropouts, 11 years older, etc.”
-Arvada, ColoradoOnline Dating Complaints
Unlike matchmakers and local dating services, most online dating Web Sites provide a forum for users to post information about themselves and offer the opportunity to peruse the site for other singles.
Online dating services normally require a specific length of membership and charge a monthly fee. The contract is typically renewed automatically when it expires. As a result, about two-thirds (63.7 percent) of the complaints against online dating sites are about accounts being automatically renewed following the end of a contract or trial period. Either the customer didn’t realize they needed to take steps to cancel the account, or they did take the necessary steps but billing continued anyway.
Other common complaints for online dating services include the inability to immediately cancel after signing up (6.8 percent), general dissatisfaction with the company and its process (6.8 percent), and the practice of the company contacting other singles on behalf of the complainant (6.3 percent).
Following is an excerpt from consumer complaints to BBB on online dating services.
“Clicked, Tricked and charged $77.94. Clicking the trial option I was tricked into a subscription. I was only accepting the free trial because it WAS FREE. This is not a fair and respectful way to conduct business!”
-Apex, North Carolina
BBB offers the following advice on matchmaking and online dating servic
• Don’t fall in love with the advertising.
Beware of claims such as, an exclusive network of people, for sincere daters only, and beautiful singles just like you. Recently, BBB’s National Advertising Division provided a decision in a case between rival online services, requiring one to stop advertising that its methods were based on “the latest science of attraction.”
• Do your homework
. Checkout the company with BBB (www.bbb.org) to make sure it has a history of satisfying customers and resolving complaints.
• Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics
. Sales associates may tell people that a low price is only good for that day and and ask them to sign a contract immediately. People should take the contract home, read it carefully and make sure they understand what they are signing up 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 and there are steps that must be taken, such as calling the company, to keep from being billed again.
For more trustworthy information on matchmaking and online dating services, consumers can access BBB Reliability ReportsTM free-of-charge at www.bbb.org.
Reporters and journalists may contact Alison Preszler, CBBB’s Media Relations Specialist or call 703-247-9376 to request an interview or additional information.
BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 128 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 3 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about BBB.