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Jenny
Jenny, Solicitor
Category: Law
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Experience:  Qualified Solicitor specialising in Employment Law and general legal matters. Please start your question For Jenny Only
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RE: Consumer Protection Act - poor service I

Customer Question

RE: Consumer Protection Act - poor service
Dear Sir or Madam
I would like to seek your advice in the following matter. I have registered with a high profile London dating agency in July 2014, who were claiming to offer a tailor-made introduction service for a sizeable fee of £15k. I have undergone a face to face interview, where I was assured of my suitability and convinced that the agency was in a possession of a large number of potential candidates – over 200 of active gentlemen members . The basic contract I have later signed obligated the agency to deliver a minimum of 8 introductions during the 12-month term. However, during the interview the representative convinced me that I should be looking at 2 introductions per month on average and supplied me with several profiles of the potential candidates by email that I will be meeting following our interview.
Based on this information, I joined the agency in early July 2014 and paid the fee for the 12 months service.
The start was very pleasant, polite and promising, and the first introduction was promised within 48 hours. However, it didn’t happen until over a month later in mid-August 2014. The agency apologised profoundly for the delay, claiming it to be very unusual and promised that things would start progressing much faster. The second introduction happened reasonably quickly within two weeks, however it was not suitable and I notified the agency on 16th September that I’m ready to proceed with further introductions.
Since that date I spent nearly 6 months waiting for various suggested candidates to become available. In each subsequent case the agency claimed that they were either unable to get hold of the person they were recommending or he wasn’t currently available due to work pressures, and promised to get in touch as soon as they hear anything back from the candidate. After weeks or even months of waiting for each of such candidates to get in touch with the agency, they would finally agree to move on to the next candidate, but the same story repeated again and again.
Probably worth explaining the mechanics of the matchmaking service rendered. The agency would first contact a lady with a selected candidate based on pre-agreed basic criteria (age bracket, gender, race, i.e. nothing too specific), give a brief description and ask whether the lady would like to get introduced that gentleman. If the lady I positive, the agency would then contact the gentlemen, give lady’s description and if he is also positive, give lady’s telephone number for him to contact her and make the necessary arrangements to meet. According to the contract, the introduction is considered to have taken place when two people both agreed to exchange their telephone numbers. No such exchanges took place since September as the agency didn’t manage to get hold of any of their candidates.
I raised my concerns on several occasions, over the phone and by email, about the constant delays and ever extending waiting time, but the agency have assured me that they were doing their best and those delays were highly unusual. I’m now more than half way into the term of my agreement and I’m having a strong feeling that the agency are not able to fulfil either their contractual obligations or verbal promises with regards ***** ***** service.
I would therefore like to ask your advice as to where I stand under to the Consumer Protection Act in claiming back the fee I have paid for the service. It might be worth noting that I paid it using my credit card and was thinking of contacting Mastercard with my case asking to consider charging it back.
Finally, although I realise that this has no direct relevance to my individual case, I have noticed a number of recent on-line reviews appearing on the agency in question sharing a very similar experience. It tells me that I’m not alone in my disappointment and my suspicions about their inability to deliver the service are not unfounded.
Please could you advise how I should act?
Many thanks
Lena D
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jenny replied 2 years ago.
Customer:

Hello and welcome to Just Answer, does the agreement that you signed with them set out a minimum number of introductions?

JACUSTOMER-sag8qajk- :

Hello!

JACUSTOMER-sag8qajk- :

Yes, minumum 8

Customer:

Have you asked them for a refund saying you do not believe they can meet their obligations? If so what response have you received?

JACUSTOMER-sag8qajk- :

No, not yet. I have only just started investigating what I can do and what rights I have as a consumer in these circumstances.

Customer:

Does the contract go into detail as to how many you should expect per month? (this is unlikely but I thought I'd check?)

JACUSTOMER-sag8qajk- :

No, all it basically says:

JACUSTOMER-sag8qajk- :

  1. We pride ourselves with the high degree of skill and care we use in providing our services and will provide you, within 12 months of your becoming our client, with a minimum of 8 introductions that we consider suitable for your requirements. However, these 12 months do not have to run consecutively and you have the facility to place your service on hold, at any time, should you wish. NB: For the sake of clarity, an introduction is classed as being when two people agree to their telephone numbers being exchanged with each other.

JACUSTOMER-sag8qajk- :

  1. You warrant that all information supplied by you to us is true, accurate and not misleading.



  1. We reserve the right to withdraw your membership at our sole discretion and the unexpired or proportionate portion of your annual service fee paid will be refunded. In the unlikely event that you should wish to cancel your membership before the service commences, then you have a 7 day period in which to do so. This will entitle you to a refund of the monies paid, minus a 10% administration charge.

Customer:

Can you tell me how many times you have exchanged phone number with another since the commencement of the contract?

JACUSTOMER-sag8qajk- :

Twice that led to a meeting. Once with the person who declined to meet in person on the basis that I lived within*****from where he lived, so it wasn't suitable. He knew about my whereabouts when he contacted me. I'm thinking this might not have been a genuine candidate.

JACUSTOMER-sag8qajk- :

All activity stopped in September though.

Expert:  Jenny replied 2 years ago.
Our chat has ended, but you can still continue to ask me questions here until you are satisfied with your answer. Come back to this page to view our conversation and any other new information.

What happens now?

If you haven’t already done so, please rate your answer above. Or, you can reply to me using the box below.
Expert:  Jenny replied 2 years ago.
Hi the contract defines an introduction as an 'exchange of numbers'. How many times has this happened sine the start of the contract?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Twice that led to a meeting. Once with the person who declined to meet in person on the basis that I lived within 1 hour commute from where he lived, so it wasn't suitable. He knew about my whereabouts when he contacted me. I'm thinking this might not have been a genuine candidate.

Overall - 3 times.

Expert:  Jenny replied 2 years ago.
The difficulty you have with the situation you are in is that if you bring a claim they can argue that they have not failed to meet the terms of the agreement until they have failed to make 8 introductions (as defined by their contract as an exchange of telephone numbers) in the 12 month period. Obviously you can say that you entered into the arrangement on the basis of their representations that this figure is very much a minimum but this will come down to your word against theirs.
You can certainly use consumer protection laws as well as simple breach of contract laws to try to get a refund of the fee you have paid and to get out of the contract. In either case you will need to send a letter before action to them to say you have lost confidence and intend to bring a claim. It may be that they will agree to refund some or all of the contract fee in order to avoid a claim and/or bad publicity.
You can, as you have identified, claim for a chargeback under the consumer credit act. Again the difficulty you may have is that until the contract ends they can argue that they are providing the service under the contract. This should not necessarily prevent you from taking this course of action but you need to be aware of the possibility. You can get the form from the bank to fill out to apply for this.
If you have any further questions please do ask.
Expert:  Jenny replied 2 years ago.
Hello is there anything further you would like to know about this?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thanks you very much for your response.

I understand that I have two options: either to start my grievance with the agency now, aiming to get at least some of the fee back. Or I could potentially wait till the end of the contract, and since accepting introductions is in my full control - ensure that the agency breaches the contract in delivering minimum 8 introductions, at which point I can claim the full refund. Although the latter option goes against my objective to actually meet someone, I am losing faith in them actually being able to help me with this.

What are the potential pitfalls with me pursuing the second option in your view?

Expert:  Jenny replied 2 years ago.
The pitfall is that they may in the end offer you the 8 telephone exchange referrals thereby meaning that there is no breach of contract. If you are dissatisfied it is better to raise an objection now to give them a chance to remedy it. You could be criticised if you do not.
Jenny and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thanks!

Expert:  Jenny replied 2 years ago.
No problem, good luck with it. I hope you can sort it out.
all the best.