Australia's Consumer Watchdog Is Cracking Down On Dating Websites

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban hold hands. Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Watch out for scammers, fake dating profiles and deals on dating sites which sound too good to be true.

The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has joined an international initiative to crack down on dating websites.

The move is part of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN)’s annual internet sweep, involving over 50 consumer protection agencies around the world.

Australians have lost $16 million in dating and romance scams already this year and the ACCC has received 1,700 complaints.

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard says online dating sites are a popular forum to meet someone special.

“We’re reminding this booming industry to treat customers in a fair and transparent manner,” she says.

The ACCC is concerned some online dating services may be offering so called free trials which hide within the fine print that people are actually being signed up to an ongoing contract.

And some dating services are reported to be signing people up to long-term fixed contracts with onerous or restrictive cancellation clauses. Transparency or a lack of disclosure around automatic renewals is also a concern.

“If a free offer isn’t really free, pricing isn’t clear, or a contract is easy to sign up to but hard to get out of, then we will find it,” she says.

The ACCC will also be sweeping these sites to look at what measures they have in place to protect consumers against scammers, as part of its Scams Disruption Project.

Here’s what to look for on dating websites:

  • Read all the terms and conditions to make sure you know what you are signing up to and how much it will cost
  • Ask your friends if they have used the site before and whether they had a positive experience
  • Before signing check your options for cancelling the contract
  • Set reminders in your phone or diary to cancel your subscription to avoid your subscription inadvertently rolling over for a further term
  • Research and get to know the business. Conduct an internet search on the name of the company and verify any contact details
  • Examine the site and check for advice about safe online practices
  • If you are meeting someone you’ve met on a dating site make sure you meet in a public place and tell a friend of family member where you are going
  • Kow who you are dealing with on these sites. If you have never met a person you are interacting with face to face, you shouldn’t be sending them money
  • Any request by a person you have met on a dating site to wire transfer funds overseas should be raising alarm bells.

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