On Monday, 12 July 2013, I signed up to an online dating agency “Senior Dating Agency.co.za”, officially registered as Global Personals. Although based in the UK, they have a local service offering called “Senior Dating Agency.co.za”, and they are posing as a ‘free sign-up’ service.
On signing up for their ‘free service’, I discovered that it was impossible to evaluate the service properly for their 'free service', as access to member profiles, messaging and other basic services were denied. After numerous prompts to 'upgrade', I innocently did so, going for their 'cheapest' option of R86/month for 6 months. To my surprise, they deducted the full amount for the 6 months in one go which they did not warn me about. After 24 hours of experimenting with the site, I realised my mistake. There was poor profile matching with other members, endless spamming by system-generated messages, hordes of annoying 'winking' alerts, and a host of unsuitable potential suitors who did not conform to the criteria I had specified. It was impossible to determine any of this without signing up to the full membership, so I feel tricked into taking out the membership.
I only scanned the terms and conditions very briefly and did not read them properly, so I didn’t realise I had signed up to a completely non-refundable contract, even after experimenting with the site for only 24 hours.
On attempting to back out of my membership, I was unable to delete my profile and was told repeatedly by their local customer support team that I had forfeited my monies for the full 6 months and no refund was due. I wonder how many other unsuspecting individuals have been the victim of this unconscionable behaviour?
To me this runs foul of both the CPA & Electronic Communications & Transactions (ECT) Act of 2002, governing online transactions, where the consumer has a fair right to a ‘cooling off’ period of 7 days.
I don’t believe the terms are fair and don’t believe they should be enforceable.
What’s worse, they have posted a bogus ‘customer charter’, inviting customers to send feedback where they feel they have been unfairly treated. I sent an email to them on Tuesday, 9 July after unsuccessfully trying to reason with their local customer support team. To date, not a soul has even acknowledged my email to them. The email addresses they invited me to use were:
[protected]@globalpersonals.co.uk and [protected]@globalpersonals.co.uk
This is the cancellation policy they have advertised on their site, which is bogus and a mockery of the reality:
You reserve the right to cancel your subscription and remove your details from our database at anytime.
We will continue to offer a fair refund policy, in accordance with our Terms and Conditions.
Our refund policies and procedures are fully compliant with all the relevant trading regulations".
What recourse do I have? I believe they are ‘waiting out’ the 7-day cooling off period to invalidate my claim…