Complaints & the ODA
What do I do if I have a complaint about a service?
You should 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 dating service will offer ways of contacting them online and, perhaps, by phone. We would expect these to be dealt with effectively and in a timely manner.
What is the role of the ODA in relation to complaints?
The ODA is a trade association. We aim to ensure high standards are followed across the sector and do this by producing and sharing good practice in relation to marketing, operations, customer services, safe-dating advice and data protection. Our members commit to these standards and the ODA logo on sites is a symbol of assurance.
Will the ODA ever be involved directly with complaints?
We do not want to cut across the relationship between users of services and those who run the services. Nor do we wish to seek to duplicate the laws and regulations that apply to data issues, consumer protection an advertising standard. Therefore, it is most unlikely we will become involved directly with complaints.
What is the ODA’s approach to standards?
Given the existing national frameworks of regulation and self-regulation we believe our focus is on maximising compliance and trust. Based on past experience we believe this can be best achieved by focussing our efforts on identifying and producing guidance and good practice information that can be made available to all dating service providers, maximising its reach and value to users.
ODA Members are committed to high standards and will use guidance and good practice material. The ODA logo on a member site is a clear indication to users of that company’s commitment to high levels of user trust and confidence.
The ODA plans a similarly inclusive approach to user advice and guidance under our “Date Great: Date Safe” banner. All our material is available for use by any service provider and by charities, law enforcement and other bodies seeking to prevent harm.
Why move from a Code to Guidance and Good Practice?
We started-out with a Code in 2013/2014 when there were concerns some dating services might be misleading users over the members they have on their site or over their costs and how to use or leave a service. Our founding members wished clearly to demonstrate their commitment not to engage in such practices.
Since then It has been clear from the low volume of complaints and from the nature of those complaints that it was not necessary for the ODA as a trade body to continue to act as an enforcement agency alongside statutory bodies with their own legal powers to regulate digital commerce and data matters.
We reached the view that users were better served by us taking a lead and a far more inclusive approach to setting out what good practice. Our first guidance addresses the core elements of running a service: managing how people join and may choose to subscribe to services, explaining the service and how it works, providing communications platforms that maximise user safety and dealing with data protection and privacy issues.
This material addresses all the issues in the original Code of Practice. And, moving from a short Code to a more extensive package of advice and guidance and to freely available material that can be shared with users reflects our continuing commitment to standards and a belief this can be best achieved in a fast-changing environment through guidance, rather than prescription.
This approach also recognises the international nature of many service providers with good practice developed on issues that are of relevance pretty much anywhere in the world and of practical use to operators wherever they offer services.
Will the ODA deal with complaints about non-member companies?
No. But we cannot be relaxed about any behaviour that threatens user trust in dating services. We aim to minimise this risk by building on our ODA membership base and promoting good practice right across the sector. 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.