Lonely heart cries foul of 'bogus' matchmaking ads

The complainant, choosing to be known as ‘James', said he has lodged his complaint with the ACCC.

Soulmates Technology founder and executive director Martin Haynes has denied the accusations, saying they are false and libellous. "I think he has a vendetta of some description [against Soulmates]," said Haynes. "He may have an ulterior motive".

James spoke to the contrary. "I have NO vendetta against Soulmates at all," he told PC World.

Soulmates Technology is an application service provider that offers a dating database which powers the personal matchmaking sites at leading portals Ninemsn, Excite and f2, as well as the company's own dating service soulmatesworld.com. James alleges that Soulmates is deliberately populating the database with false profiles in a bid to lure people to pay for further details which reveal a profilee's contacts.

Although it is free to join these dating services, the portals generate income by charging users through the purchase of ‘contact stamps'. These are like coupons which entitle the seeker to access the e-mail of the profilee in order to contact them. Until this occurs, there is no way of obtaining this info. The only other way a site can generate income is if a profilee chooses to be bold and seeks to pay to have their contact as well as profile details posted onto the matchmaking site for all to access.

James claims to have used stamps on several women, to no avail. "I imagine this happens quite a lot," he said. "There are profiles of absolutely gorgeous women and naturally men will want to contact them by buying up contact stamps. [A] pretty good way to make money, don't you think?" he pondered. "I am concerned that there is no system in place to verify, report and remove profiles that are not legitimate and I think it is inappropriate that Soulmates benefits financially from transactions effected by a bogus profile."

Haynes denied this. He said Soulmates took every precaution to verify a profile was real, which included testing e-mails to ensure they were correct and belonged to an individual. He added that not everyone may choose to reply to another person's e-mail, stating that the tone from an e-mail may be enough to put someone off. This may have been the case with James or others who do not receive replies.

Soulmates currently has 250,000 members registered in the database and Haynes said about 1500 members join the service each day. The service has been around since 1995 and he said in that time period he has only received one complaint.

He said these allegations were sullying the name of a company that was ‘waving' the flag for Australian innovation. Soulmates' technology spreads across the globe and it has currently developed an application written in 14 different languages.

Haynes was confident of the integrity of the Soulmates database. He said the same technology applied to it is currently going into a similar matchmaking site, but instead of matching singles, it links sports enthusiasts together. It is known as Sports Pals and will go live by mid-year.

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Howard Dahdah

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