Online dating sites review

Our investigation shows paid and free online dating sites including RSVP, eHarmony and Oasis Active may use members' private information and photos in advertising.
 
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01.The findings

Online-dating

Our investigation into popular online dating sites has found that scams are rife, and some privacy policies and terms and conditions are riddled with disturbing provisions.

We've checked out the offerings of some of the market leaders, and found out how they work, how much they cost, and what their privacy policies are.

In this article you'll find information about:

We also share some examples of good and bad online dating experiences.

For more general information related to the Internet, see Software and online services.

Scam warning

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been investigating online scammers who use dating sites and romance services as a feeding ground. In 2013 alone, Australians lost $25.3 million to the shysters.

The ACCC reports that they've received 2770 complaints, with more than 400 people saying they'd lost in excess of $10,000. In fact, 64 people reported losing more than $100,000. And shockingly, 43% of people who came into contact with dating and romance scams lost money – one of the highest conversion rates of scams reported to the ACCC.

Popular scams include convincing users to part with their personal details or money, which is often sent overseas and is unrecoverable. 

“Scammers go to great lengths to gain your trust, spending months and even years building a relationship with you. Once your defences are lowered, they spin an elaborate tale about how they need your financial help with a crisis, such as being ill or stranded and ask for money,” says ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard. 

“These scams can also pose a risk to your personal safety, as scammers are often part of international criminal networks. Scammers have lured unwitting Australian victims overseas, putting people in dangerous situations that can have tragic consequences.”

CHOICE member uncovers a scam

One CHOICE member believes she stumbled on such a scam when using RSVP. “I was married for 33 years when my husband died,” says Alice (not her real name). “A friend suggested going on to dating sites to meet someone. My instinct told me to be careful, so I set up a fake email address.

“The very first person who contacted me was a scammer. I complained to the site about him, and six weeks later they told me they had removed all of his profiles from their site. So I moved to eHarmony, and guess who I found there?”

Dating website reviews

CH0212_OnlineDating_rsvplogo

Australian members: Two million – the most popular online dating site, according to recent figures.

Who’s on it: Roughly 50/50 female and male; 48% of members are aged between 26 and 40, while 34% are between 41 and 60.

Cost: It’s free to become a member, view profiles and see the last four people who viewed your profile, and to send and accept virtual kisses, which are expressions of interest. 

Users need to buy stamps to email others, which expire within one to 12 months and cost between $4.59 and $11.69 each, depending on quantity bought and expiry period. 

A stamp allows unlimited free contact for 30 days between two members. RSVP also has two premium membership services, RSViP Priority (from $6.65 to $14.90 per month, depending on length of membership) and RSViP Private (from $8.32 to $24.90 per month). Both allow members to access compatibility scores and reports, see all members who viewed their profile in the past 21 days and have non-expiring stamps and more emailing options. Priority members are also highlighted and appear at the top of search results, while private members have the option to keep hidden until they choose to allow others to view their profile.

Approach: Free users enter the gender, age range and location of those they’re looking for and can view the results immediately, but don’t get any hints as to whether they are compatible. Paying members get access to compatibility data, and so may have a better shot at a good match.

Privacy: Signing up to an RSVP account and agreeing to its privacy terms and conditions in effect grants permission for your personal information, including photos and email addresses, to be used for “any purpose”, which may include advertising or transmission to a third party. While all sites we looked at track your activities using cookies, RSVP even shows other users how often you’re on the site and who you’re looking at. 

Experiences: “I met my current partner there,” says Mary*. “We’ve been together about four-and-a-half years, have a two-year-old daughter and are getting married next year.”

* Not her real name.

eHarmony-logo

Australian members: More than a million, according to an eHarmony spokesperson. 

Who’s on it: About 51% males and 49% females; most members are aged in their 20s and 30s, but there are also a large number of older users.

Cost: There are three levels of membership. Users can create a free account to receive a personal profile, view daily matches and have limited interaction with their matches, such as sending a smile or a limited number of set questions. Basic aying members are charged from $19.95 a month for a 12-month membership to $59.95 month for a one-month membership. They can request and view photos of matches, see who has viewed their profile and when their matches last logged in, and communicate with confirmed matches. 

Total Connect members pay from $23.95 a month for 12 months to $39.95 per month for three months. They get all basic plan features plus are able to phone their matches without revealing their phone number via a service called Secure Call. They also get a deeper personality analysis. 

Approach: eHarmony’s selling point is its tailored approach to finding love online. New users fill out a detailed questionnaire in which they rate their own appearance and personality as well as nominate important features in a relationship and partner. The answers form their personality profile, which is then used to find matches using the so-called “29 dimensions of compatibility”. 

Privacy: By posting information and photos on a profile page or any public area of the eHarmony website, users automatically agree to have that information perpetually owned and used by eHarmony for such purposes as advertising. Users’ contact details may be shared with third parties for advertising, but opting out is possible by changing certain settings or notifying eHarmony of your request in writing.

Experiences: Jane* says: “eHarmony doesn’t [let you join] if you’re separated but not divorced and doesn’t seem to make it so easy to chat. And no-one seems to have a current photo of themselves!”

* Not her real name.

 
 

 

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