Complaints & the ODA
What do I do if I have a complaint about a service?Talk to your service provider. All ODA members should have effective and appropriate arrangements in place to deal with complaints and enquiries. Like any other business dating firms should be dealing direct with users who want help or who have a complaint. Your service will offer ways of contacting them online and, perhaps, by phone. You should raise issues with them in the first instance and we would expect these to be dealt with effectively and in a timely manner.
Will the ODA ever be involved directly with complaints?Yes, but we need to think where and why we become involved. We do not want to cut across the relationship between users of services and those who run the services. We will pass complaints across to members if they arrive at the ODA but look to the member to deal with directly. We will be monitoring the flow of complaints we and members get and the things complained about. This allows us to step in if complaint levels or the things being complained about suggest there may be something more serious going wrong.
What sanctions will there be for members who breach the Code of Practice?Our focus is on maximising compliance and trust reducing the need for formal interventions.
We want to deal promptly with any misunderstandings over what is expected of members, flagging processes that create risks and helping if a member has to stop or change a process and remedy the consequences of its actions.
We expect to publish the findings of all formal investigations. And we have to be ready to draw issues to the attention of the ICO or Trading Standards community if this is needed. But we start from a more optimistic and realistic position – online dating companies got together to create the ODA and write a Code of practice. Their action is all about setting and maintaining standards: not about wrongdoing and corner-cutting.
Will the Association publish details of complaints?Yes. We expect to publish information as part of our annual and other reporting. We will distinguish between minor issues that were referred to members to resolve and any formal investigations.
Will the ODA deal with complaints about non-member companies?There is a limit to what we can do. Outside firms are not bound by our rules.
But we cannot be relaxed about any behaviour that threatens user trust in dating services. We would hope to minimise this risk by building on our ODA membership base – showing those outside that it’s good for users and good for their businesses to up their standards and come on board. We would work with consumer and data protection bodies to end any rogue-trading. And we would be loud in encouraging the public to look for the ODA logo as an assurance when deciding which service to go with.
Would you ever terminate a membership?Yes – if we had to. No association can ignore behaviours that damage public trust, the reputation of the sector and the health of the market. If a member’s behaviour is a wide, serious risk to consumers and to the reputation of the sector we would have to suspend or end their membership. But, as set out above, we are working on the basis members have joined because of their commitment to their users and a healthy market. They will have been through the Code and set out how they plan to achieve compliance. We would be surprised and disappointed if the issue of membership had to be up for discussion.
Will the industry sit in judgement of itself?We hope the Code and guidance make it highly unlikely that formal investigations and adjudications are needed.
But we know our adjudications need to command confidence. We will set up on the assumption of having an independent adjudicatory panel – 3-4 people with regulatory skills who will sit alongside board members ensuring there is the right balance of expertise, independence and objectivity within a properly managed process.
Still need help with an enquiry or complaint?
Please click here to complete a form to register your enquiry with the dating site provider and the ODA.
The ODA does not become involved in individual complaints but monitors enquiry and complaint levels and can intervene if it sees worrying trends or serious matters of concern.