'Great Expectations' unfulfilled for lonely customers, Washington state AG says

Washington state's attorney general has settled a case with DMZ Group, LLC, an independent affiliate of the dating service Great Expectations, in which it accused the company of misrepresenting itself during sales pitches, overstating the number of members to choose from and failing to disclose all of its fees.

The office of attorney general Rob McKenna said it received close to 60 complaints about the company since 2006 and also investigated it in 1990s, but didn't take action then. The case was just settled last month.

The Bellevue company agreed to settle the case by partially refunding unsatisfied customers and making changes to how it markets its services.The company bills itself as "the premiere, personal dating service" and solicits members through online "pop-up" ads and its web site.

Under the settlement, the company can't misrepresent the number of its active members, how old members are, what their gender is or where they live.

The company also agreed to only use photographs, videos or descriptions of individuals who are active members. It must also disclose fees for services such as photographs, which aren't included in the basic membership rate, and the company must provide written authorization before accessing a prospective member's credit history.

This isn't the first time consumers have complained about an affiliate of Great Expectations. In June 2008, Arizona's AG sued a Scottsdale-based company doing business as Great Expectations. In that case, the AG accused the company of similar problems. The case was settled in 2009.

And in 2006, Pennsylvania's AG sued Great Expectations claiming its sales pitch was deceptive and misleading.

Kristin Alexander, AG spokesperson, told Consumer Ally that Washington's case doesn't address previous cases in other states, but "consumers seem to be complaining about the same types of issues we saw here in Washington."

Alexander suggests consumers carefully read a contract, including the fine print, before signing up with a dating service.

"I think it's fair to ask questions when you are considering hiring someone to help you find your partner," she adds.

She also warns that some companies continue to bill customers monthly fees after they've met their match because their contract requires it. She said it's important to know what the company's cancellation policy is if the consumer is not satisfied with the service or fails to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right.

In those cases, you might want to gauge expectations accordingly.