Consumer rights: 'Can I take action against agency for failing to find my soulmate?'

Request for refund falls on deaf ears and a new business franchise proves to be more expensive than promised

Q. I spent a lot of money joining a dating agency. Unfortunately all of the people I've met have been unsuitable despite assurances that they are carefully matched.

I feel that no effort at all has been made to make sure I'd get on with the people I meet. I haven't been given the service I've paid for. I've complained but been refused any of my money back and just been offered another few "free" introductions. I feel I've been naive but I'm also angry at being ripped off. Do I have any comeback or will I simply have to swallow my pride?


A. In any case where you feel you haven't been given the service you paid for and you've been refused your money back, or compensation, you can sue. You haven't told me how much you spent but I expect you could have the case heard under the small claims process in the county court which deals with claims for up to £5,000. The fees are low and you can conduct your own case without a solicitor.

However, be realistic. To win you have to prove that you haven't had the service you paid for and that won't be easy. Who is or isn't the right person for someone to get on with is a very subjective opinion. You may say no effort was made to "match" you up. The agency will robustly defend itself by arguing that it made every effort to look for people with similar profiles and that it took every possible step to make sure that the information any would-be "dates" gave them was true. Who will the judge believe? I've said you can take a case without a solicitor, but because it's so difficult to prove you're right you may need a solicitor's help and that means spending more money.

Even if you win your case and are awarded some or all of your money back, you need to be sure that the firm you're claiming from could pay you. Sometimes there's no money so even if you win your case you end up throwing good money after bad. Take advice from a solicitor. Ultimately you may be better to move on rather than risk losing more money.

Q. I decided to set up my own business earlier this year, and after a lot of research opted for a franchise. Having gone through all the figures and terms and conditions I thought I'd found the perfect fit.

I was told it would cost about £60,000 to get the business up and running. The projected income would give me a living wage, cover costs and allow me to recoup those start-up costs over a reasonable length of time.

However, nothing has gone as predicted by the franchisor. The start-up costs have stretched to about £165,000 and the projected returns are about two and a half time less than predicted.

I do have some clients but I've told the company I want to stop trading. They've said if I do they'll sue me for loss of income. I didn't take any financial advice before I started but I did check with people running franchises in areas close to mine and they told me they were doing well. I don't know what to do next.

FT, south London

A. I've taken the name of the company out of your letter because the checks I've done all point to this being a reputable company; there haven't been any other complaints like yours and this is very unlikely to be a scam. I also know that your local MP is trying to help you come to a settlement and I don't want to do anything to endanger that.

Graham Hebblethwaite, from the Trading Standards Institute, tells me: "We have had franchise problems where business opportunities or training have been oversold causing complaints about upfront fees, particularly training to be a pub licensee or driving instructor. In those cases the main business venture was to sell training with no care about whether there were any realistic business opportunities.

"This does not appear to be one of those, with a seemingly limited number of franchises available and no real complaints other than this one."

Your research with other franchisees close to your "patch" suggests there is a viable business model here. You have clients so you have created some business. However, there is obviously a mismatch between your expectations of service support, costs, income and the real figures.

Mr Hebblethwaite says: "You have to double check everything and not just rely on a franchisor's information. Independent research on both the financial and market analysis sides with local chambers of commerce, local authority economic development units and Business Link is always useful."

The firm did recommend you take independent financial advice and an adviser is likely to have pointed out the pitfalls which the franchisor, and other franchisees who are doing well, didn't. Other possibilities are that this is a business that does better in some areas than others, or that nearby franchises have already soaked up most of the available clients. Just because something has achieved good results in the past doesn't guarantee that it will in the future.

You need to see an accountant who specialises in small businesses and franchises in particular. You may need a business lawyer to look over your contract. The British Franchise Association at runs a mediation and arbitration scheme. It may be able to help if the franchisor is a member. It doesn't have the power or the right to intervene in a dispute but it may help to get you communicating again.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

    £45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

    Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

    £45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

    Laura Norton: Project Accountant

    £50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

    Laura Norton: Project Accountant

    £50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

    Day In a Page

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
    Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

    The end of an era across the continent

    It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
    Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

    'Focus on killing American people'

    Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
    Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

    Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

    The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
    Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

    Same-sex marriage

    As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
    The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

    The Mafia is going freelance

    Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable