The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has begun a sweep of online dating sites to try and discover any unfair practices they might be engaging in.
Last month, the consumer watchdog launched their Scam Disruption Project, which will monitor transaction data to find out which consumers might be engaged in dating scams.
And now the ACCC are trawling dating sites looking for “misleading offers, unclear pricing policies or consumer contracts with unfair terms.”
These are areas that were covered in recent changes to UK consumer law, which updated regulations around terms and conditions, clear language around payments and cancellation periods.
The campaign is part of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network’s annual internet sweep, which involves over 50 consumer protection agencies around the world.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said: “The ACCC is today sweeping the internet to ensure that dating sites are being true and fair in their dealings with customers, and provide protection from scammers.
“Online dating sites have proven to be a popular forum to meet someone special and we’re reminding this booming industry to treat customers in a fair and transparent manner.”
The watchdog said areas of concern included sites offering “free” trials that actually sign consumers up to an ongoing contract, and “onerous or restrictive” cancellation clauses.
“If a ‘free’ offer isn’t really free, pricing isn’t clear, or a contract is easy to sign up to but hard to get out of, then we will find it,” Rickard said.
They are also looking to aid their Scam Disruption Project by finding out what measures companies have in place to protect their customers against scammers.
Rickard said that dating scams have accounted for $16m in financial losses this year, and they have received nearly 1,700 complaints.
“Protecting consumers is a shared responsibility and the ACCC will continue its previous work with industry to develop best practice guidelines and identify ways to protect consumers from romance scams,” she said.
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