Thirteen of the UK’s leading dating sites including eHarmony, Guardian Soulmates, Match.com and My Single Friend, have agreed in principle to sign up as founding members of the Online Dating Association (ODA) – an industry initiative first unveiled by Marketing Week earlier this year.
The body will be headed up by ex-Cabinet Office director and -PhonePayPlus chief executive George Kidd as CEO, and Duncan Cunningham, managing director of The Dating Lab, the company behind The Times’ and Telegraph’s respective dating sites, also agreeing to serve as chairman.
Members of the ODA will be asked to sign up to a code of conduct which insists that members are transparent with consumers over pricing models, whether they are billed on a repeated basis, data privacy, and the authenticity of dating profiles on its site.
After a soft launch last month the ODA is now in the process of drafting its founding code of practice and also aims to become a hub for consumer advice for online dating, such as safety tips, etc, before officially going live before the end of October – when it will also start its first dialogue with government departments and regulators.
Kidd says: “It is now increasingly normal for people to find their partners online and our role in identifying best practice across the industry will make it easier for people to know what to expect. Consumers will be able to look out for the ‘hallmark’ logo which verifies that the site is a member of the association and operating to these industry standards”.
The original talks to form such a body began in the aftermath of a Channel 4 News broadcast that made a host of allegations alleging white label dating site Global Personals – which has operated sites including Dating Republic, Love2Meet and FlirtNaughty – of duped consumers based on the testimony of former employees. Global Personals claimed it stopped practices such as setting up false profiles prior to the investigation.
Last month, a further BBC documentary further alleged that less scrupulous dating site operators were taking data, such as photos, etc, from social media sites and then uploading them to create false profiles, further damaging the industry’s reputation.
Cunningham, adds: “Part of our commitment to helping consumers make informed choices between dating sites is to have as much of the industry as possible involved.”
The initial members will be eHarmony, The Dating Lab, Oasis, match, My Single Friend, Guardian Soulmates, Love and Friends, Dating Factory, Christian Connection, Muddy Matches, Lovestruck, Freedating and The Single Solution.
At this stage, nothing should be read into any names which are not part of the initial membership. Some may have been in discussions and would prefer not to be named for now. Others may join the discussion later, according to the body.