Breaking up with someone is hard enough, but breaking up with a dating app has created its own drama for a Nelson woman, who hopes her story will save others some grief.
Jacquie Walters recently signed up to ‘Singles50’, after seeing the app advertised on social media.
She had just turned 50, so she thought, “yeah why not? Embrace my age”.
It's free to join, but if Walters wanted to see, or even message a potential match, she had to upgrade to the premium version.
The businesswoman and mother of two paid $100, which got her a month's membership and eventually, a coffee date.
“He was a very nice person but just not romantic for me,” Walters told Fair Go.
After finding no other suitable matches, she was ready to cancel her membership, but found it difficult to do so.
For starters, the company was registered to an office in Luxembourg.
“There was a thing that said you had to send a handwritten letter by mail or fax,” she explained.
“I thought, who has a fax machine? Not very many people these days.”
With no number to call, she finally found an email for the company. Then she found out her membership had been automatically extended by a further three months.
In ‘Singles50’s terms and conditions, there is a clause on automatic extensions.
If she wanted to stop her subscription, she needed to say so seven days before her month membership was up. Walters argues the important clauses weren't highlighted or red flagged. She felt they were buried in the fine print.
“I think when you advertise a month subscription, that is what it should be.
Scathing online reviews and emails to Fair Go’s inbox warn of similar experiences, including other brands linked to the same dating program, such as ‘be2’, ‘Academic Singles’ and ‘C-date’.
Nelson lawyer Kathy Carr advises there are ways to break free, even if a person has agreed to the terms and conditions.
“To my mind, when I tried to read them, they are not clearly presented and easily understandable at all.”
Under the Fair Trading Act, the Commerce Commission can ask the courts to declare the terms of a contract unfair, and therefore unenforceable .
“People could actually go back to the agency and say, 'look, I don't think your clauses would be upheld under NZ law,” Carr advised.
When Fair Go contacted the parent company of the dating agencies, Online Personals Group AG, a spokesperson said the dating apps had “millions of satisfied users worldwide, many of which find their soulmate and their big love”.
They said the terms and conditions were available “all the time” and communicated to customers on the payment page.
But they agreed that the option to cancel via email, rather than a handwritten letter or fax, wasn't clearly laid out to customers. Changes have been promised over the next couple of weeks.
Walters is done with online dating but hopes she can help others avoid similar pitfalls or speak up if they’re feeling embarrassed about their own situation.
“I think people feel a sense of shame when they lose money anyway, but when it's tied to signing up for a dating app, there'll be a little more shame as well.”
For those who want to opt out of a subscription with, for instance, a dating service, gym membership or a streaming site, Fair Go’s advice is to:
1. Make sure you know what you're signing up for - carefully read the T’s and C’s, looking for rollover subscriptions or any clauses that lock you into timeframes.
2. Tell the company in writing, that you're cancelling your membership, and include the date of your final payment.
3. Contact your bank to cancel your automatic payment - again, in writing, noting the final payment date.