Divorcee wins suit against London dating agency

British judge rules that Seventy Thirty made false and misleading claims about having a substantial number of rich male members

LONDON • The divorcee was left broken-hearted after she said an elite dating agency failed to introduce her to the match she had hoped would be "possibly the man of my dreams, the father of my child".

Now, Ms Tereza Burki, 47, has won £13,100 (S$22,920) in damages. The mother of three, who lives in Chelsea, had sued Seventy Thirty, based in central London, for deceit and misrepresentation.

On Wednesday, the high court ruled that the dating agency had misled the businesswoman about its "exclusive" membership.

Judge Richard Parkes said: "This case is about a woman looking for romantic happiness, who says she was tricked into shopping in the wrong place, paying a large sum to a dating agency which, she says, made promises, but failed to produce the goods."

Ms Burki approached the firm in 2013. "Her requirements were not modest," the judge observed.

What she wanted was a "sophisticated gentleman", ideally employed in the finance industry. It was important that he should lead a "wealthy lifestyle" and be "open to travelling internationally".

Her most important requirement was a willingness to have more children - she had always wanted four.

She was encouraged by what she read about Seventy Thirty and signed up, paying £12,600.

The judge said the agency's then managing director Lemarc Thomas claimed there was a substantial number of wealthy male members actively engaged in its matchmaking services.

This was false and misleading, added the judge, because there were only about 100 active male members. That number could not be described as a substantial number, even without considering how far that number would have to be reduced to allow for compliance with her criteria.

"Had Ms Burki known what the true size of the active membership was, she would not have joined Seventy Thirty," he noted.

In her suit, she sought the return of her membership fee and damages for distress. The agency counter-sued for libel and malicious falsehood in connection with two online reviews she wrote.

The judge awarded her £12,600 for deceit and £500 for distress.

He awarded Seventy Thirty £5,000 for libel relating to an April 2016 Google review by Ms Burki.

Ruling on the agency's libel claim, the judge said he had not found that the business was a fundamentally dishonest or fraudulent operation, although at the time, it probably had a short supply of suitable men.

Had Mr Thomas explained to Ms Burki that the database included active members, former members who still wished to be matched and people who had been headhunted and had agreed to be put on the database in the hope of finding a suitable partner, she would have had little cause for complaint, Mr Parkes said.

GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2018, with the headline 'Divorcee wins suit against London dating agency'. Print Edition | Subscribe