Saracens Blog

Can’t Buy Me Love

High-Net Worth Online Dating Agency Rip-offs

Bankers, CEOs, even us lawyers, often struggle to meet anyone special.  Working 80 -100 hours a week and constant travel often means entrepreneurs, executives and other high-net worth individuals have little spare time for dating.  Many instead have come to rely on online dating websites, catering specifically to matching highly-educated, professional men and women to each other.

It’s not just finding the time to meet someone that is challenging for successful individuals, it is becoming acquainted with people from outside their professions.  For example, financial executives who deal with figures and analytics all day often prefer to date creative types, who give them a different view of the world.  After all, often opposites really do attract; for example, lawyer Amal Clooney and her actor husband, George and Wimbledon champion, Andy Murray and his artist wife, Kim Sears.

Then there is the matter of intellectual compatibility, a quality craved by smart, successful people.  As one executive once told me, “A wife is someone who you can spend six hours stuck in an airport with”.

This is where dating agencies who specifically cater to high-net worth individuals excel.  They know what wealthy men and women want and need, and have the expertise required to pair the right people together with the hope that sparks will fly.

For an investment of between £10,000 – £60,000 per annum, wealthy people are matched to potential partners from all over the world by the dating agency.  And in some cases, the right people are put together, and a long-term relationship or even marriage results.

Despite the many cases of success, there has been a recent spike in online dating fraud.  Cases have been reported of clients handing over tens of thousands of pounds only to find the ‘perfect matches’ shown to them before they signed up suddenly no longer exist.  Trading Standards UK warns potential website users of online dating websites denying that they have received client cancellations within the correct time limit laid down by their terms and conditions. They will then refuse to allow the cancellation until the consumer pays the balance for the whole of the period of the contract.

In other cases, consumers may have signed up for a limited period trial – say one month, three months or six months –  and not realised that the dating agency would extend the membership if the consumer did not cancel. In at least one case the consumer was alerted by her credit card company that they were still being charged for a service they were no longer using.

Trading Standards fears that many cases of fraudulent dating agencies, especially those catering to the high-end of the market, go unreported because victims are too embarrassed to make a complaint, despite often losing tens of thousands of pounds.

Consumer protection law in relation to online dating agencies

If you believe that the online dating agency you engaged has failed to provide the level of service expected, especially if you have paid many thousands of pounds, the first step is to contact a commercial law solicitor.  They will deal with your matter in complete confidence, and act on your behalf, freeing you from having to deal with the agency personally.

Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, consumers have 14 days in which to cancel any contract for an online service, such as a dating agency.

In practice, online dating sites provide access to member profiles as soon as consumers sign-up.  However, if a consumer cancels during this 14-day period, it is likely they will only have to pay for the days the service was supplied to them and this is calculated on the basis of the total price agreed in the contract.

If you wish to cancel your contract outside the 14-day period, you will have to establish a legal reason for doing so, for example, the agency misrepresented the service it was providing.  In the first instance, your lawyer will write to the agency stating the reasons why you wish to cancel your membership and demanding a part or full refund of the amount of money you have paid.  If the organisation disputes your claim, then your lawyer can lodge a claim in court, and/or try to reach an agreement through alternative disputes resolution methods such as mediation or negotiation.

How to protect your interests when signing up with an online dating agency

There are many reputable dating websites for high-net worth people who provide a service well-worth the fees they charge.  To ensure you do not fall victim to an agency which does not operate by such high standards, take the following precautions before signing up:

  • Read the terms and conditions carefully. Be wary of overly complicated cancellation clauses.
  • Check that the company’s full address, telephone number (landline, not just a mobile) and UK company registration details are clearly available on the website.
  • Ensure the site’s payment page is secure – look out for the ‘s’ in https. A padlock on the payment screen is also a mark of security.
  • Pay by credit card. This will provide protection under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, making the credit card provider jointly responsible for any problems that may arise.

If you are paying many thousands of pounds to a dating agency or website, it is well worth having the contract checked over by your solicitor before you commit.  They will ensure that the business offering the service is legitimate, secure and has the ability to deliver on its claims.

Despite the small number of less than scrupulous agents operating within the UK, online dating websites do offer a very good way to match high net-worth individuals with suitable men or women.  Finding the best company that can match your individual needs whilst providing the highest levels of service and integrity is paramount and will provide the best chance of meeting new people and perhaps even to find that special person in the online dating world.

Saracens Solicitors is a multi-service law firm based in London’s West End.  We have dedicated and highly experienced commercial litigation solicitors who can represent you if you have a complaint against a dating agency or website.  For more information, please call our office on 020 3588 3500.

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