Edmonton woman sues dating service after paying thousands of dollars for a single date

Service Alberta investigating complaints against Edmonton matchmaking company

A 67-year-old Edmonton woman is suing a matchmaking service after she spent thousands of dollars more than two years ago but only went on a single date.

"I know I'm not Nancy Sinatra but there must be someone out there who would have coffee with me," said Margaret Clark in an interview with Edmonton AM.

According to the lawsuit, Clark paid $10,494.75 in December 2014 for a membership with Edmonton Matchmakers at their office in Old Strathcona.

Less than a year later, the Texas attorney general's office shut down the company's U.S. affiliate, ordering Lone Star Introductions to pay a penalty of $500,000 for violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

In a statement of claim filed on March 31 in Calgary, Clark accused Canada Introductions Inc., which operates as Edmonton Matchmakers, of "using extreme and persistent high-pressure sales tactics."

"After two and a half hours, I felt like I was very low, my self-esteem had been bruised," Clark told CBC, recalling her initial appointment with the relationship consultant.

"She continuously bombarded me with questions: Why hadn't I met somebody at the church I attended? Why hadn't I dated anybody? That women my age didn't have much time left and these statements were made over and over again."

Clark was taking Oxycontin after a recent hip replacement surgery in addition to breaking her foot. The lawsuit says the sales person was "well aware" of Clark's health condition, but convinced her to pay $10,494.75 for a membership.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and a statement of defence has not been filed. Edmonton Matchmakers has not responded to CBC Edmonton's repeated requests for comment.

BBB reviews

The Better Business Bureau of Massachusetts confirmed Edmonton Matchmakers is affiliated with Lone Star Introductions, which also operates as eLove. In addition to the $500,000 fine, Lone Star was ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution to customers. The company was also found in violation of the Texas Internet Dating Safety Act and debt-collection regulations.

Clark's lawsuit notes eLove and Alberta Matchmakers are both registered trade names owned by Canada Introductions.

Edmonton's Better Business Bureau gives Edmonton Matchmakers a rating of A- but several customer reviews are less flattering.

They echo Clark's allegations of high-pressure sales tactics, unsuitable matches and a lack of referrals.

"In my case it was a very poor match," wrote one customer. "After that, you might as well just write your money off. There are no time requirements to provide anything. They could wait until you die."

Clark's contract states that after clients receive their first referral they "will not be entitled to any refund."

"We will provide to you a total of 16 referrals on an as-available basis," reads the contract, adding the company does not guarantee "the time it may take to find referrals for you based on your compatibility with our Membership base."

The lawsuit says Clark met her one match for a lunch date shortly after signing up. Both agreed they were "wrongfully mismatched." According to court documents, Clark never received another referral and her calls and emails to the company were not returned.

According to court documents, Clark concluded she had been "scammed" in March 2015 and called to demand her money back The lawsuit seeks a full refund plus interest. She told CBC she felt angry and embarrassed but decided to go public to warn others.

Insufficient evidence of offence

Service Alberta investigated Clark's case in 2015 but found "insufficient evidence" to identify an offence or enforce regulations, said spokesperson Cheryl Tkalcic. 

"If new information becomes available and is shared with us, our consumer investigators would assess the information to determine if reopening the file is warranted."

Tkalcic said the Fair Trading Act protects consumers from unfair business practices such as being influenced to make a purchase, taking advantage of the buyer or representing goods that are of a different quality than promoted. She advised customers to review contract terms and refund policies, and ask questions.

Tkalcic is encouraging "those who are concerned about a similar transaction" to call the consumer contact centre at 1.877.427.4088.

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca                      

@andreahuncar