UK European Consumer Centre issues 'wise dating website' tips
UK consumers hoping to find love around the time of Valentine's Day are being urged to follow a set of 'wise dating website' tips when they sign up for love online.
Andy Allen, UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC Director) said: "Registering on an online dating website can become costly for some consumers, especially if they are not aware of the cancellation terms of their contract or alternatively have not be able to cancel. This is one of the main reasons that people who complain about dating websites become angry and contact the UK ECC for help."
Every year, consumers face problems with online dating services and call the ECC-Net for assistance. Complaints span a variety of issues, but are often made by consumers who have entered into contracts, sometimes on a trial basis, but have been unable to cancel and in some cases are being pursued for payment by a debt collector.
As a general rule, users of online dating services have a right to withdraw from the service within 14 days. Within this time, the provider must refund the membership fees.
There are, however, two main drawbacks: firstly, if the consumer used the service by checking the profiles of other users or contacting them, the provider usually argues that the consumer has started using the service and so the dating site is entitled to seek compensation. The compensation often amounts to 50 % of the membership fees or even more. Companies sometimes justify the fees by arguing that it’s not the duration of the contract that matters with regard to membership but the number of contacts made during the membership period.
The second main drawback - termination of membership - can also give rise to problems for consumers. Terms and conditions of a contract are important here; essentially consumers should be informed about any automatic renewal and how they can cancel membership.
Andy said: "However, usual ways of working can catch some consumers out. In Germany, for example, contracts often automatically renew if they are not canceled within the cancellation period. In Austria, in contrast, the provider must remind the user shortly before the expiry of cancellation period that the contract will renew. The same applies in France for long term contracts, where the contract can also only renew for the same duration as initially signed up for.
"Essentially, however, consumers should ensure they know what they are getting into when they sign up to dating websites. Looking for a partner can be an emotive issue. If you are looking for love online, you can be in an emotional place which means you can be quite vulnerable and trusting towards both the people you are likely to meet as well as the online dating services themselves."
The UK ECC's 'wise dating website' tips:
- Ask for the duration of the contract and the cancellation period before registration and mark your calendar.
- Carefully read the contract before signing: The deletion of your profile usually does not lead to the termination of your subscription. The cancellation terms are detailed in the small prints in the contract.
- Make sure you know what your obligations as a consumer are before you sign up.
- Check out a website's 'how to' section if there is one, even if you think you know how they work: each site may operate slightly differently.
- If you notice shortly after registration that the service does not meet your expectation, stop using it and immediately ask for the cancellation of your contract in writing, keep a copy. This may help avoiding or minimizing compensation fees. Ask in advance which amount of compensation will be required.
Notes to Editors:
For further information please contact UK European Consumer Centre’s press office on 01268 582206.
The UK European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net). There are 30 centres in the EU, plus Iceland and Norway. The aim of the network is to provide advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK. The Network will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.
UK ECC can provide advice in the following main areas: buying goods and services, online shopping, internet auctions, holidays, timeshare and holiday clubs, air travel.
UK ECC is co-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and the European Commission.
The UK ECC service is delivered by the Trading Standards Institute www.tradingstandards.uk
- The UK ECC provides advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK and will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.
- Consumers can make contact with the UK European Consumer Centre via the website – www.ukecc.net – or by phone on 01268 886690 weekdays between 9am and 5pm.
- If in doubt before you buy, contact our sister organisation – the European Consumer Centre for Services – for pre-purchasing advice: www.ukecc-services.net