Online Dating Association to give consumers more informed choiceCreating the association reflects the growing maturity of the sector. It will have a valuable role to play in building public and Government understanding of the industry which serves millions of people in the UK and is a significant player in the digital economy.
Membership will be open to all online dating sites in the UK who can commit to and meet the standards set out in a Code of Practice which is currently being developed. This Code will build on the raft of consumer protection, data privacy and other laws that are already in place to protect consumers.
The Code which will help ensure compliance to existing laws and regulations and it will set the bar higher. It will be anchored in a set of principles, with supporting rules and guidance:
* Being honest and clear in what you offer
* Meeting expectations and deliver what you promise
* Protecting people’s data and their privacy
* Protecting our users from harm, deception and loss
The Association will be run by Chairman Duncan Cunningham, managing director of The Dating Lab and CEO George Kidd, a former Cabinet Office Director responsible for regulation, risk and compliance policy across Whitehall. They will be supported by a board of directors selected from the members.
George Kidd said: “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 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.co.uk and The Single Solution.
Duncan Cunningham said: “Part of our commitment to helping consumers make informed choices between dating sites is to have as much of the industry as possible involved. We are looking forward to talking to other businesses and giving them the opportunity to become members”.
The next steps will be to finalise the Code of Practice and develop the web site, to include a range of consumer advice and sign posting. The association will go live before the end of October when it will also start its first dialogue with government departments and regulators.
Over time the ODA could become a source of information sharing and best practice for industry and advice and assistance for consumers, delivering the benefits of a trade body in a fast maturing sector.
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.
George Kidd was appointed Chief Executive of the Online Dating Association in August 2013.
In a non-executive capacity George is Chief Commissioner at the UK Direct Marketing Commission, the regulatory body for traditional and digital direct marketing. He is a member of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers regulating legal services. He has also been acting as the interim Chairman of the UK Public Affairs Council – the industry-funded Registrar for UK lobbyists.
For eight years George was Chief Executive of PhonepayPlus the self-regulatory (and latterly Ofcom) agency for the £1 billion UK market for “phone-paid” services and goods. During the 1990s George served as deputy Director at the Cabinet Office working on regulatory policy and the set up the Better Regulation Task Force and the Food Standards Agency. George was with the Foreign Office as British Consul in Chicago from 1990-1994 promoting US investment into the United Kingdom.
Duncan Cunningham was elected Chairman of the Online Dating Association in August 2013.
Duncan has been a director of The Dating Lab since 2007, providing various media partners such as The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Sunday Times with online dating sites. Before that he worked for its parent company, Telecom Express in a variety of operational and commercial roles. He has been involved in the provision of Dating services to the UK media for over 20 years.