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Japan

Dishonest dating services received nearly 2,000 complaints, prompting Japanese watchdog to investigate

Matchmaking has long been an accepted part of Japanese society but an ageing society, fewer children being born and stagnant wages have combined to sharply curtail the number of eligible singles

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 October, 2017, 10:17am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 October, 2017, 10:52pm

Nearly 2,000 complaints were filed against matchmaking companies in Japan in 2016, with the nation’s consumer rights watchdog sufficiently alarmed at rising reports of sharp practices in the sector to issue an alert.

In a nine-page report released earlier this month, the National Consumer Affairs Centre (NCAC) said it had received 1,983 complaints against companies that had promised to unite singles with the perfect partner and often collected large fees for their services – but then failed to deliver.

In more than a quarter of the cases, the NCAC said, the complaints were filed by parents who were despairing of their adult sons or daughters finding a partner and had registered on their behalf without informing their children.

With no explanation in advance, I was suddenly charged a huge amount as the marriage fee
Complainant

Matchmaking has long been an accepted part of Japanese society but an ageing society, fewer children being born and stagnant wages have combined to sharply curtail the number of eligible singles.

Women are having to lower their ambitions for a man who meets the requirement of the “three highs” – a high level of education, a high salary and physical height – in potential husbands, while there are an alarming number of men who work in poorly paid jobs and have essentially given up hope of ever being able to afford a wife and family.

Growing numbers of ageing parents are therefore taking their children’s love lives into their own hands, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Registrations fees are typically around 400,000 yen (US$3,517) and many of the complaints to the NCAC involved agencies telling customers to keep their enrolment “secret” for a couple of weeks. The legally mandated “cooling off” period, during which a customer can cancel a contract with a value or more than 50,000 yen without incurring a penalty, is eight days.

Others complained their children had not received any introductions, even after the matchmaker had guaranteed they would be married within a year.

In a complaint cited in the report, one individual stated: “I was promised that I would be able to get married by next year, but I wanted to cancel the contract because I did not receive any introductions.”

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The report cited a number of specific cases as a warning to consumers, including one case in which a client was introduced to a foreigner as a potential match without any explanation and charged a premium of 2.5 million yen.

Others reported being continually pestered to sign for additional – and costly – services or charged vast sums to cancel the contract.

In at least one case, a 40-year-old male customer was given a bill for 2.5 million yen when the introduction worked out and he married the woman he was matched with.

“With no explanation in advance, I was suddenly charged a huge amount as the marriage fee,” he said in his complaint to the NCAC.

In a number of instances, parents who expressed dissatisfaction with the service they were receiving were told by the agencies it was their fault their children had not found a partner. Some were told their children did not have a good enough education or a sufficiently high salary.