BBB Issues Warning for Online Daters

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has issued a warning to singles who are looking for love online. The BBB is encouraging online daters to read the contract terms of online dating services before paying for that service. Nationwide, the BBB has seen a strong increase in the number of individuals looking up online dating services. Complaints against online dating services, most dealing with billing issues, are also on the rise.

“With matchmaking contracts, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into and what the service offers,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Be sure to read all agreements, guarantees, and instructions before signing and be wary of vaguely worded provisions, exclusions or limitations which could pose a problem later.”

Jean Rhodes of Evanston said of her experience: “She made me feel like a loser. I told her that I was not interested in signing up and she asked me ‘Would your mother want to see you single?’ She pushed me at a weak moment and I signed up. She told me that she had three people that were appropriate right now. I spent $2995.00 and ended up getting only one date with a guy that I had nothing in common with.”

Barbara McCarthy of Hoffman Estates, who also complained said, “They promised me 33 matches and I am not sure if I ever hit that number. They said that I would meet all high caliber men that would meet me in nice restaurants. Actually, I think that they just tried to set me up with anyone alive and moving. One guy showed up for dinner with no teeth and gummed his food.”

Those looking to find love via an online dating service most often complained about:

– Dissatisfaction with the number of arranged dates. Matchmaking services often say they have a database of thousands of singles in the area and promise a minimum number of dates; however, complaints show they often failed to deliver. One complainant reported to only have received three referrals over a 12 month period, significantly less than what was promised.

– Available singles not up to par. Often consumers said they were matched with singles that did not meet their specified criteria-common complaints include that singles they were set up with were smokers when they specified nonsmokers or lived too far away from prospective matches.

– Poor or rude customer service and high pressure sales tactics. Some complainants reported being pressured by sales associates into signing up for matchmaking services. Complainants reported being yelled at, others were told to not be so picky, and many said they were completely ignored.

The dating services industry is divided into two categories: personalized matchmaking companies and online dating Web sites. The two services take a different approach to helping people find compatibility and as a result, the types of complaints to the BBB differ.

Another complainant, Mary Ann Tracy of Carol Stream said, “I felt pressured to sign up because they said I had to decide within a certain amount of hours. They never even gave me a copy of the contract I signed. I paid several thousand dollars and they only came up with two referrals. I wasn’t interested in either of them. I tried to get a refund but they gave me the runaround and stopped taking my calls.”

To avoid a bad experience the BBB offers the following advice:

– Do your homework. Check out the company with the BBB 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 ask them to sign a contract immediately. Take the contract home, read it carefully and make sure it clearly states what you are signing and paying for.

-Know the contract terms. Consumers should not assume that they will stop being billed once the contract runs out. Some dating services automatically renew memberships and there are steps that must be taken, such as calling the company, to prevent being billed again.