How much responsibility can an online dating agency take when a date turns disastrously wrong?
Site admin can only do so much to vet its membership, unless we are talking about high-end dating sites for professionals which charge exorbitant fees from the layman’s point of view, but are the others doing enough?
On both sides of the pond, there is a lack of regulation by the authorities, both when policing sign-ups and, indeed, monitoring people who become dating site start-ups.
Any screening is done at the point of sign-up. With a paid dating site service, one-to-one calls are becoming more and more the norm, where the value is in the monthly fee to make the practise financially viable. Typically, where the facility is a free dating service, there is not enough capital in the business to be so personal; any inquisition into a specific member is left to the dating site community itself.
How far can the authorities get involved?
If dating sites were not so popular, there may be an argument for for authority involvement. However, when social media and personals sites can attract over 100 million members in less than one year, it would mean creating a huge department just to oversee one site.
The US have took a gigantic step in protecting its citizens when interacting with non-US citizens. As the largest target market for scammers, this has grown from necessity rather than choice, but in 2007, the Intl. Marriage Broker Act was introduced, which has put the onus legally for international dating service providers to ensure the safety of its US members.
Who owns the dating sites – are they accountable?
As things stand, anyone with the money can buy a dating-site-in-a-box and have it up and on-line within days. There is little or no vetting process for new owners – cash is all that matters.
There are successful entrepreneurs who actually franchise their site and even share their membership with affiliates until they grow their own rank so that they are self-supporting. Again, it is at this point that extra screening measures could be enforced and make the dating site owners accept some of the responsibility for the new members it allows to sign up for their dating facility.
What warnings should legally be enforced on dating sites?
Sites like ours, dating.org.uk, constantly monitor the dating site headlines and therefore look to highlight possible scams as they break, such as constant updates about 419 Fraud.
However, as we do not own a dating site, only seek to sort the best of those on the net, we cannot control what measures they take to protect its membership.
It would be encouraging to see a standardised warning, or a self-regulated body that recognised dating sites can sign up to as an adjudicating organisation, by which the dating site community can draw some confidence when signing up. Much like the ‘Gas Safe’ register in the UK, whereby consumers look for that assured standard before calling upon their services.
Like it or not, no system will ever totally infallible, even those that call on governmental records. The choice will always be down to the individual to discern whether the individual you are considering dating is trustworthy, or not.