I’m extremely concerned about the number of women coming to me for online dating advice who have paid up thousands of dollars to so-called ‘exclusive’ introduction agencies only to find they can’t come up with anything like the promised number of matches.

If you’ve been in this situation I’d love to talk to you. I’m hoping to find women who are willing to speak out publically about this issue – ideally to be named and photographed for a feature on this whole issue. But if you prefer to be anonymous, that’s also fine.

The simple fact is that these companies can’t operate a legitimate business anymore because they can’t attract enough men. Why would a man pay up to $9,000 to one of these companies when he can go online and meet plenty of women? Yet women who are nervous of online dating or finding it too hard to handle are still handing over serious money to these people. It’s a real scandal.

Our consumer complaints organizations receive a steady stream of complaints about these organizations. Last year the NSW Department of Fair Trading received 86 complaints about introduction agencies, including some of the really big names in the business. Of these 36 of the customers got their money back, at least in part.

Most of the women in this situation tell me they were too embarrassed to make an official complaint. Many are professional women with public reputations who are attracted to these companies because they need to handle the whole dating business in a discrete manner. Hence they are seduced by the promise of “exclusive” matches.

I constantly hear stories of women being told of incredibly attractive matches prior to signing a contract. “Oh, I’ve got the perfect person for you!” the agency staff tells them but the clients never actually get to meet these men once they sign on the bottom line. The very few men they are introduced to are often totally inappropriate – i.e. a father with young children when the client has specified she doesn’t want anyone with children still at home. When they try to get out of expensive contracts the women are often abused or told they are simply too fussy. “You can’t expect to get married tomorrow!” one manager told a woman who’d been introduced to a man way outside her ideal age range.

Please urgently contact me at bettina@bettinaarndt.com.au if you have any relevant experience with introduction agencies or information that might be helpful.