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No more dating in the dark on Valentine’s Day

Eight major online dating websites in the Netherlands have made their websites more clear. They have improved their consumer information about the most important features of their offerings such as: what are their membership rates, what is included in their memberships, what are their cancellation procedures, and whom can customers contact if they have any questions? The dating websites have adjusted their information after the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) had contacted them about these issues.

Consumers had filed complaints about unclear information on online dating websites with consumer information portal ConsuWijzer, which is operated by ACM. Some of these complaints about dating websites were also filed as a result of a ConsuWijzer awareness campaign that called on consumers to file complaints about products or services they might be ashamed of. Today, one in five relationships has been formed through a dating website.

The following Dutch dating websites have implemented adjustments:

  • Another Love
  • Lexa
  • Parship
  • Pepper
  • Relatieplanet
  • Second Love
  • 50Plus Match

Anita Vegter, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: “Dating websites offer a serious service, and they should therefore comply with the rules. Now that their information has been adjusted and made more clear, consumers know in advance what they agree to.” ACM has also looked at several non-Dutch dating websites that target Dutch consumers. Adjustments to their provision of information were also needed. ACM has asked the relevant European regulators to take appropriate action.

Costs and cancellations

Dating websites must inform consumers clearly about what they need to pay if they sign up and purchase a membership, what exactly is included in that membership, what the duration is of their memberships, and how they are able to cancel them. In addition, it needs to be clear at what point exactly they have to accept the offer. This step in the purchasing process must be clearly marked, for example with a button called ‘Purchase membership, and pay.’ If consumers take out contracts for a fixed period, for example six months, such contracts may be automatically converted into permanent contracts. As a consequence, this also means that consumers are able to cancel these contracts at any moment with a notice of up to one month.

Withdrawal period

Consumers that purchase a membership to a dating website have a period of 14 days to withdraw the contract. This right of withdrawal must be clearly displayed on the website. Consumers are allowed to use their memberships during the withdrawal period. If they need to pay costs to do so, they must be clearly informed thereof in advance, and they must have explicitly agreed to such costs. The dating websites in question have improved their information on all of these points. Consumers are now clearly informed, and in a clear location, about the right to withdraw . It is not sufficient just to include this information in the general terms and conditions.

Dealing with consumer problems

ACM has many different instruments at its disposal for solving consumer problems. When selecting the right approach, ACM puts consumers first. In this case, ACM has chosen a swift, industry-wide approach. As a result, further harm to consumers is thus prevented. In other cases, ACM imposes fines. Over the next few months, ACM will keep a close watch on dating websites to see whether they continue to comply with the rules.