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Entre-Nous faces more complaints

Gay matchmaking service on consumer beware list

ONE OF SEVERAL COMPLAINTS. Larry Thomas filed a complaint against Entre-Nous with Vancouver's Better Business Bureau after allegedly facing a cancellation fee for terminating his contract. Credit: Natasha Barsotti photo

A growing body of legal and consumer complaints both here and in Ontario allege the Entre-Nous Network isn’t living up to its matchmaking promises.

Entre-Nous claims to be “Canada’s only professional matchmaking service catering exclusively to same-sex relationships.” To date, three complaints have been filed against the company in small claims courts, two in Ontario and one in BC.

As of Jan 17, the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services had also received five written complaints and six inquiries about Entre-Nous. The complaints and inquiries include allegations of misrepresentation, failure to provide a service, failure to honour a contract and contract cancellation.

Last November, the company was added to the Ontario government’s Consumer Protection Branch’s Beware List.

Patricia Ross, a counsellor with Entre-Nous who assists with client services, says the company’s addition to the Beware List is an administrative error regarding its GST number and has nothing to do with its service provision.

“We’re in the process right now of trying to work that out with Consumer Protection,” Ross says.

A spokesperson for Consumer Protection says the GST may have been a factor in one of the contractual complaints, but “there’s another complaint on there and it doesn’t appear to be related to GST,” says Vanessa Rae.

Here in Vancouver, a gay man filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) last spring after allegedly facing a cancellation fee for terminating his contract.

Larry Thomas admits he signed a $3,600 contract for two introductions but says he decided to cancel the service without going on a single date. Now he says he wants his $300 deposit back — and doesn’t want to pay the $1,000 cancellation fee he claims Entre-Nous has requested.

As of Feb 25, the BBB showed an unsatisfactory rating for Entre-Nous for failing to respond to Thomas’ complaint.

Ross says she didn’t respond because she wasn’t aware of Thomas’ complaint.

“We should be able to have that reversed once we speak with [the BBB],” she told Xtra West Feb 25. “There has never been a complaint that we have received and not responded to, unless we have not actually received it.”

Ross later called Xtra West back to say she had spoken to the BBB and the unsatisfactory rating had been lifted.

BBB vice-president of operations Simone Lis confirms the rating was lifted.

“If they’ve resolved the issue of concern — so for example, if it’s because the company didn’t respond to the complaint at all and subsequently came back to us and said, ‘Okay, I want to respond to the complaint’ — then that would indeed take away the rating,” Lis explains.

Meanwhile, another Vancouver man is pursuing Entre-Nous in small claims court.

Gregory M, who filed his complaint Jan 10, says he was looking for “an alternative to the standard and the random ways of meeting people.” (Though Gregory’s last name is part of the public record, Xtra West won’t publish it in keeping with its policy of not outing people.)

“I’m not one to go to bars and I don’t go to bathhouses or any of that kind of stuff, and I felt rather isolated and I knew there must be other people like me out there,” Gregory told Xtra West Feb 25. “That’s really, I think, the clientele [Entre-Nous is] trying to reach, it’s somebody like myself. I went online, saw the info on the website, filled in a little online form and was contacted by somebody from the Toronto office.”

Gregory says he experienced “red flags” almost immediately.

At an initial free interview at Entre-Nous’ Granville St office last August, he claims client services manager Carolyn Salib told him the company had over 3,000 members in Vancouver alone, a figure Gregory says he found hard to believe.

But she “sold me on the idea that I would have a relatively high chance of meeting someone through this dating service,” he writes in his notice of claim.

“She said I’m the perfect candidate because I’m professional, I’m within a high income bracket and I fall outside the norm, and those are the sorts of people they have,” Gregory explained to Xtra West.

Then came the price tag.

“I was told that my fee would be $9,000” for 12 introductions, he says.

Gregory claims Salib told him he would likely not meet his “perfect match” the first time around but, because of Entre-Nous’ “highly specialized matchmaking system,” he would meet, between the third and seventh visits, the person he’d develop a “lifelong relationship with.”

“She said that’s just an average. Some people take longer, some people take shorter,” Gregory concedes.

But after a month and four failed introductions with only one meeting occurring in person — with someone he already knew — Gregory says he wanted his money back.

But he was ineligible for a refund.

Now he alleges, in his notice of claim, that Entre-Nous misrepresented its services.

Ross says she’s familiar with Gregory’s small claims complaint, and acknowledges that Entre-Nous is in litigation with him, but can’t comment on the matter due to client confidentiality.

“I do need him to waive his right to confidentiality from our organization and I would have no problem disclosing details at that time,” Ross explains. “I can tell you that sometimes things are not always as they’re presented, and we’re a national company and we deal with thousands of clients right across Canada.”

Entre-Nous has until Feb 29 to file its response to Gregory’s complaint in small claims court. It had not filed a response by press time.

Asked about the volume of complaints Entre-Nous has been receiving, Ross says it’s not a high volume if “you actually look at the volume in comparison to how many people we service and cater to.”

“This is an emotional experience, it’s something that is not the easiest thing to go through. Different gentlemen or women have different expectations,” she says. “They’re not hearing or seeing the successful cases.

“When a company has grown to a national level, servicing right across Canada, you are going to have people who aren’t satisfied,” Ross concludes.