On Monday 15th September, the ACCC joined more than 50 consumer protection agencies around the world in a sweep of the internet looking at online dating sites for misleading offers, unclear pricing policies and consumer contracts with unfair terms.
The ACCC is concerned that some online dating service providers may be offering ‘free’ trials that hide within the fine print that people are actually being signed up to an ongoing contract.
The ACCC has also received reports of some online dating services 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.
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.
“Unfortunately the ACCC continues to hear the devastating impact of dating and romance scams, with over $16 million reported in financial losses and nearly 1700 complaints already this year,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.
How to avoid getting ripped off when looking for love online
- 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.
- Most of all, know 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 an online dating site to wire transfer funds overseas should be raising alarm bells.
The ACCC launched the Scam Disruption Project last month to help protect the Australian community from relationship scammers.
In 2012 the ACCC issued dating and romance voluntary guidelines that were developed collaboratively with an industry working group to help dating websites and their users respond to scams. For more information, visit SCAMwatch website