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Lawsuit against matchmakers

Entre-Nous Network added to Consumer Beware list

The Entre-Nous Network claims to be “Canada’s only professional matchmaking service catering exclusively to same-sex relationships” but a lawsuit filed against the Toronto-based company claims the company didn’t live up to its promises.

Terry Wong, whose case came before a judge on Oct 24, says Entre-Nous did not live up to its contractual obligations. A second case, filed in November 2006, was settled out of court in March 2007 after undergoing pretrial hearings. The claimant says he received a full refund. (Although the claimant’s name is part of public record Xtra has chosen not to identify him due to its policy against outing individuals.)

They aren’t the only ones who aren’t happy with the introduction service.

“To date the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services has five inquiries about Entre-Nous and we also have three written complaints,” says ministry media officer Alan Cairns. “All three written complaints concern alleged misrepresentation and the five inquiries are broken down thus: two for failure to provide what was promised, two for contract cancellation and one alleges that the contract terms and provisions had not been honoured.”

Entre-Nous was recently added to the provincial government’s Consumer Protection Branch’s Consumer Beware list.

Cairns says the Consumer Protection Branch is currently mediating two of the written complaints between the complainant and the company.

“I can’t really comment on those complaints because I don’t know the details of those cases,” says Reginald Lanuza in Entre-Nous’ client services department, “but we do want to tell our side of the story.”

Wong, who joined the network in May 2006, paid $7,698 according to documents filed with the court but was introduced to just one potential match between the day that he joined and the time that he attempted to cancel his contract in October 2006. In his filing Wong says his single date didn’t meet the criteria he gave to the company.

According to court documents Wong’s meeting with his potential match took place in May 2006. Wong further alleges that when he tried to give an Entre-Nous employee feedback, “she was quite unreceptive and seemed irritated that I was giving feedback.”

When he hadn’t heard from Entre-Nous for a second matchmaking introduction by September Wong’s statement states he felt that he had been taken advantage of and requested that his contract be cancelled.

“Quite expectedly the very first thing [an Entre-Nous rep] said was they had a match for me,” states Wong in the statement of claim. “They had accidentally put my file on hold since Aug 8 but had a match for me and did not make the introduction because they thought I was on an introduction. She was ready to make the introduction now.”

But according to court documents Wong didn’t accept this explanation and subsequently asked for a full refund, citing the Consumer Protection Act. When Entre-Nous refused he took his case to the Consumer Protection Branch for mediation eventually filing a lawsuit with the Small Claims Court at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. He is seeking a full refund as well as $10,000 in damages.

At a trial on Oct 24 Deputy Judge JR Connolly ordered a default judgment for compensatory damages after representatives for Entre-Nous failed to show up.

Carolyn Salib, Entre-Nous’ client services manager, says Entre-Nous did not receive notice of last month’s trial date and that the company has filed a motion to have the Oct 24 judgment set aside. The hearing to consider the motion is scheduled for Jan 10, 2008. If approved a new trial date would be set.

“We will be defending ourselves in this case,” says Salib. “We do honour contracts with our clients. A lot of what has been put forth is false and slanderous. We are fighting these accusations. We are a legitimate company.”

She says she cannot comment on the specifics of either case because Wong’s is still in litigation and because of a confidentiality agreement between Entre-Nous and its clients.

“We want to be able to tell our side of the story but we need permission from [complainants] before we can comment on individual clients’ files,” says Lanuza.

Wong declined to waive his right to confidentiality pending his trial.

In a letter to the Consumer Protection Branch during mediation of Wong’s file signed by Salib and filed as evidence in the case, Salib cites Wong’s preference to be introduced to white men as the reason it was taking longer than usual to find him a date.

“There is a 100 percent legitimate reason that introductions can take longer when individuals set their preferences to one specific ethnicity,” states the letter, “more so when individuals are not open to dating their own ethnicity.”

The letter notes that Wong initialed a bonus clause on his membership agreement acknowledging that he understood that this was the case. “Terry Wong was made fully aware that introductions were going to take longer and he agreed and initialed the contract. Introductions can typically take four to eight weeks for most members. However, because of the nature of Terry Wong’s file being race specific, those timelines become less predictable.”

“I still contend that the five months that passed without any introductions goes well beyond any reasonable definition of timeliness,” states Wong in an appendix to complaint form in response to Salib’s explanation to the Consumer Protection Branch. “Especially in relations to human life expectancy. I could have died of old age before they found me a match.”

There are currently five dating services listed in the Consumer Beware database. Cairns says unlike memberships to fitness clubs where consumers are entitled to a 10-day cooling off period, dating services fall in the “future performance agreements” category which means that customers who want to cancel “may only do so if the contract is found to be deficient under the Consumer Protection Act.

“To actually get your money back for the contract would only be available if there were false, misleading or deceptive representations,” says Cairns. “That would have to be decided by a court.”