Disappointed Daters Awarded Refund

Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez arrive at a dinner in New York to celebrate Time 100, Time Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world May 8, 2006.
AP Photo/Jason DeCrow
A judge ruled that two women looking for dates online are entitled to refunds for fees paid to an Internet matchmaking service after it failed to make good on its promise of helping people find true love.

Civil Court Judge Diane Lebedeff awarded one woman, identified by the pseudonym Jennifer Doe, the $1,000 she had paid for a six-month membership to the Great Expectations Web site after the woman said she had met no one through the service. The judge awarded the other woman, Debra Roe, the $3,790 she paid for a 54-month deal.

The judge found that "there was a massive overcharge by the dating service" and that Great Expectations' contract "violated every mandate of the Dating Services Law" except for the three-day "cooling off" right to cancel.

Great Expectations, based in New York, argued that the Dating Services Law did not apply to its operation because it provides an Internet posting service.

The judge disagreed and said, in a decision issued last week, that she would notify the state attorney general's office that Great Expectations had violated state law.

Noting that the statute specifically includes computerized services, the judge said "the mere fact that the social introduction process was to be conducted on the Internet in this case does not place the dating service outside the scope of the law."

She said Great Expectations, founded in 1976, operated by posting members' videos, photographs and personal information on its Web site so they could be reviewed by other members. Members can contact each other.

Because Great Expectations' contract guaranteed no specific number of referrals each month, the service could legally charge no more than $25 per member, the judge said.

The printed contracts for Doe and Roe were identical, the judge's decision said, but Roe's contract had handwritten notes saying "Marriage Program" and "Platinum Shopper" and indicated she would be introduced to 12 people.

Roe said she was introduced to no one, and only one person approached her after seeing her information on the Web site, the judge said. Doe said she met no one through the service but eventually stopped checking to see if anyone had tried to contact her.

The judge said the pair, "both appearing to be intelligent, well-spoken and attractive professional women, carefully negotiated the services to be provided." She said she determined they would not have signed illegal contracts if they had been aware of their rights.

The dating service will appeal, spokesman Bob Liff said Monday.