CONSUMER RIGHTS

Online dating sites failing to find 'the one' as number of Hong Kong singles grows

Services accused of false advertising and failing to find Ms Right as number of singles grows

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 3:15am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 5:14pm
 

A man whose search for love turned to humiliation when he tried to find a partner through a dating company was one of a growing number of people complaining to the Consumer Council about such services.

Two face-to-face dates went badly when the women decided he wasn't suitable and an effort to set him up with an air hostess failed, prompting the matchmaker to tell him he simply wasn't "qualified" for such a relationship.

He was one of 22 people who complained to the watchdog last year about dating services - which include online dating, speed dating and one-to-one personal matchmaking. The figure was up from eight in 2012.

Professor Michael Hui King-man, chairman of the council's publicity and community relations committee, said a growing number of singles was driving demand for dating services.

"According to the 2011 population census, the proportion of never-married males and females aged between 20 and 49 increased significantly from 39 per cent and 34 per cent respectively in 2001 to 47 per cent and 39 per cent in 2011," he said.

The man cited by the council had paid an annual membership fee of HK$4,000. On the first date, he complained, the woman kept sneezing and talking about her depression. After their meeting she expressed dissatisfaction with him to the matchmaker.

Next, the dating firm matched him with a flight attendant. When romance failed to blossom, a date was arranged with an office worker; it had a similar outcome.

Another man wrote to the council saying he was dissatisfied with the number of dates arranged by a company after a payment of HK$4,800.

He accused it of putting pictures of South Korean celebrities on its website to mislead people into believing they were seeking matches.

Hui said users should read the fine print carefully to avoid extra charges and invasion of privacy.

Out of six websites offering online dating services surveyed by the watchdog, five had auto-renewal terms for continuation of membership and payment. Unless people took the initiative to cancel, the membership would be extended indefinitely.

Most services agree to use private information and photos of members for matchmaking purposes only, but some state they could be used for advertising, the council warned.

"If users do not want their faces to pop up in an online ad, they should pay attention to the terms and conditions," the council's chief executive, Gilly Wong Fung-han, said.

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