If you follow the suggestions given in this guide book, and are very careful dealing with the dating service, your chances of feeling you have been, or unquestionably ripped off are less, and if you do get ripped off, you have a better chance of getting out relatively unscathed emotionally and financially. If you have already have been ripped off by a dating service, you really don't have many options, but there are some.
The first thing to do is attempt to reason with the company by phone and correspondence. If they are honest and trustworthy, they will probably offer some sort of negotiated settlement. Probably though, they are going to either ignore your complaint or try to blame your problems on yourself. Some have been known to be rude, offensive, demoralizing, and to make threats of legal action to get you to stop complaining. Some were reported to have canceled the membership of people who complained.
You should file a complaint with the local Better Business Bureau. If the dating service is a supporting member of the BBB though, expect to have a difficult time filing a claim. By the time you have the complaint written so that the BBB will accept it as a valid complaint, it will be so watered down as to be almost pointless.
Write complaints to every local consumer protection agency, or government consumer bureau you can find. Most states have some sort of such bureau, as well as some cities and counties.
Write to local newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations that do consumer information articles. Suggest they investigate these outfits. If you have a flair for writing, compose articles about your experiences and submit them to local publications that welcome unsolicited articles from their readers.
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If you want to take legal action, it is easier in some states than in others. In some states consumer laws tend to protect the consumer while in others they tend to protect the business. Even in states with laws favoring the consumer, the courts sometimes tend to rule in favor of the business. If you need to find an attorney for advice, local bar associations usually have a service that will refer you an appropriate attorney and set up an initial consultation for a very small fee. This is normally only a thirty minute consultation, but that's usually enough time to find out if you have a good case against the company, what your chances are of bringing successful legal action, and what the cost may be to you.
You may want to try to find other people in the area who feel they have been ripped off by the same company. If you find enough people, a class action suit may be a possibility. A mob of angry customers will get the attention of a company or a legal court a lot quicker than some poor soul claiming he or she was ripped off. The company, in either case, will probably come up with a stack of wonderful testimonies of how great their service is. I can tell you this, they don't get these testimonials from on-line services and BBS's!
Be aware in most states, if you go to small claims courts, the court is held in the county where the business is located. The small claims court judge is usually a county judge. If you live in a different county, your chances become slimmer of receiving a judgment in your favor. Most dating service fees may be out of the range for small claims court anyway.
Probably the best thing to do if you do get ripped-off is to warn all other singles about the dangers of that company. A good way to do this is through on-line services, newsgroups, and BBS's. Be careful though. Always make it clear that whatever you state is your own opinion. Some of these services have been known to threaten legal action against people who have made negative statements about them.
If you do find a lot of others in your area that feel the same as you, you may all want to form a group and pool money and resources to purchase advertisements warning singles about the dangers in local publications that singles read. Maybe the company will have to change their ways to attract new members, and others will not be ripped off in the future. You may also generate enough media attention that local consumer groups might get involved in your efforts, creating more public attention and possible governmental action to stop these unethical operators.
Notice I mention all the options you have locally. Even though a lot of these services are national, the franchises are locally (or regionally) owned. You would have to bring action against that franchise. If you complain to the parent company that you have been mistreated, deceived, or whatever by a local office, you will most likely get a response stating something like they are sorry you are upset, but they are not responsible for the actions of their franchise owners. I imagine their contract with the franchise owner has a clause making this clear, so you can probably forget any national action, except to warn others to be cautious when dealing with the company.