The protracted legal battle between a same-sex matchmaking service and one of its former clients has ended in a split decision.
In a ruling dated Jun 27 deputy judge R Priddle stated that Terry Wong of Toronto was entitled to a refund representing half of the almost $7,700 he paid to Entre-Nous Consulting Inc. The judge also awarded Wong interest on the sum awarded, court costs, and $500 for “inconvenience and expense.”
But the award falls far short of the amount Wong was seeking ? a full refund plus $10,000 in damages.
In his ruling the judge agreed that while Entre-Nous did not attempt to scam Wong, the company did not completely play fair.
“In this case there can be no doubt that [Entre-Nous’] form of contract is, at least in some aspects, one-sided as alleged by the plaintiff,” wrote Priddle in the decision.
But the judge also noted that Wong bore some of the responsibility.
“It would be easy to suspect that business ventures like that of [Entre-Nous] are ‘scams’ that hope to ‘fleece’ unwary and gullible customers,” wrote Priddle. “But the latter, as they become disenchanted when they discover there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, plead that they were misled and rely on common law and statutory provisions to discredit the vendors and justify refunds.”
In court documents filed in 2006 Wong says he paid Entre-Nous $7,698 for the company’s matchmaking services, but that the only potential match the company made for him did not meet the criteria he’d set. After not hearing from the company for four months regarding another potential match Wong requested a refund. When the company refused he brought his case to the Ontario government’s Consumer Protection Bureau and ultimately to Small Claims Court. The case was tried on Mar 31.
Remy G Boghossian, attorney for Entre-Nous, called the judgment “fair and reasonable.” He says the refund called for by the judge is similar to an offer the company made to Wong several months ago.
“As time went on it became obvious that Mr Wong was no longer a good fit for Entre-Nous,” says Boghossian. “He had very specific and unreasonable requests and imposed other limitations upon the matching process that, had they been disclosed at his initial consultation, he would not have been accepted into membership.”
Boghossian declined to disclose specific details on the grounds that Entre-Nous was continuing to honour “its obligations of professionalism and confidentiality to Mr Wong.”
Although Wong calls the decision “a bit unexpected” he adds it “is nothing earth shattering.”
“I read [the decision] to mean that I have the right to cancel the contract but the clause stating that there is no refund after the first introduction is unfair,” says Wong. “Therefore the judge decided that the service [Entre-Nous] has performed is worth, at most, half the fee.”
Wong says the decision should help others who also feel they were wronged by the company. “The decision will allow other individuals who decide for whatever reason after the first introduction that the service is not right for them to easily get half their money back.”
Wong, who chose to represent himself in court, also recommends that others in a similar position consult with a lawyer to help them to navigate the legal process.
Despite being awarded only a partial refund Wong says it was worth pursuing the matter through the court system.
“I have learned two things,” he says. “First, you can be told something but if a clause [in a contract] does not say exactly what you are told, that it isn’t what you are told. You can only go by the exact wording in a contract. And second, if you are not happy with the wording of a contract, you can change the wording or add any clause you want as a counter-offer even if the contract [contains] standard pre-printed wording.
“If you are not happy with the wording of a contract, don’t sign it. If the other side won’t budge, then walk away.”