Dating Options

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Dating Options is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

www.dating-options.co.uk

1DATING OPTIONS |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Director Mike Parker
Britain’s first marriage
bureau
Dating Options are a high-end personal matchmaking
company, overseeing a number of different specialist
brands. In recent times, they have taken over some very
well-established matchmaking agencies. These include The
County Register, which they took over in July, and Attractive
Partners, which has been in operation since the 1990s.
Committed to ensuring client profiles are verified and accurate,
they believe that online dating agencies and apps must be
regulated to ensure that their users accurately portray themselves.
Director Mike Parker details the history of the dating industry in
the UK and outlines the form these regulations should take.
The dating industry in the UK has expanded rapidly since the turn of the new
millennium, rising from around two million active participants to around 16
million. This figure is made up of single men and women who have tried online
dating at some stage. There are seven million current registered users. This has
been achieved through the popularisation of online dating and dating apps on
smartphones, the added ease of accessibility to dating services and increased
affordability. The market is split into two different categories: online dating sites or
apps and traditional face-to-face dating or personal introductions.
The history of the UK dating industry
The first organised dating agency services in Great Britain began in the early 18th
century. This coincided with the launch of the country’s first newspaper,
The Daily
Courant
, in 1702, which allowed professional gentlemen the opportunity to advertise
for wives in their personal column.
FACTS ABOUT
DATING OPTIONS
»Director: Mike Parker
»Founded in 2011
»Based in Alcester,
Warwickshire
»Services: Personal
Matchmaking
»No. of employees: 35
»Member of the Dating Agency
Association
Dating Options
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| DATING OPTIONS
In 1939, Mary Oliver and Heather
Jenner launched Britain’s first “Marriage
Bureaux” on Bond Street, London.
Oliver and Jenner initially aimed to
meet the needs of men stationed in the
colonies and desperate for wives. At
home in London, there was a shortage
of men because so many had been killed
in the Great War. Therefore, the agency
offered a great opportunity for women
who, at the time, were considered
“over the hill” by their mid-20s.
Personal matchmaking continued
gaining momentum throughout the
1970s and ’80s, with Dateline Plc,
Mary Balfour’s Drawing Down the
Moon and Heather Heber Percy’s The
County Register. In the 1990s, a new
dating phenomenon changed the
face of the dating industry in the form
of online dating, with the launch of
Match.com in the USA in 1995 and
here in the UK in 1998.
The problem areas
Online dating rapidly began to swell
the numbers of participants as it
gathered momentum and the use
of the internet gained strength.
This, in turn, developed significant
problems because of the volume of
members involved, fuelling online
dating crime, which has been one
of the UK’s fastest-growing crime
categories, according to the National
Crime Agency, with a six-fold increase
between 2011 and 2016, including
murder, rape, violent assaults, fraud
and blackmail. We believe this to be
because of a lack of real regulation
of the industry. There are no actual
requirements for service providers
to complete background checks on
members. Online agencies claim that
they are unable to take safeguarding
measures due to the volume of new
members that both online agencies
and dating apps process daily. This
leaves the public very vulnerable.
Fraud is one of the biggest problems,
with around £30 million per annum in
the UK directly attributed to fraud via
online sites and apps. This increases to
more than £100 million if social media
is also included.
Online dating providers vs.
traditional dating agencies
One of the biggest factors and
differentiators when joining a
dating provider is cost. An online
service where the client builds their
own profile and uploads their own
photographs can be offered very
cost-effectively, as the client is actually
doing the work on software systems
from the online provider. Obviously,
these profiles can be wildly inaccurate
and may well be using photographs
that are years out of date, with
greatly exaggerated occupational and
educational details. Effectively, anyone
can be anything they choose to be
online, with no background checks
First edition of the UK’s
Daily Courant
Matchmaking in the
1940s
There are no
actual
requirements
for service
providers to
complete
background
checks on
members
3DATING OPTIONS |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
of note, making online-dating-related
crime so much easier.
Within the traditional dating sector,
much of the work is still done face
to face, so the costs of joining can
be much higher. Most traditional
dating companies do, however, carry
out stringent background checks on
the client’s identification and home
address, often through a home visit,
with many going well beyond this and
checking out residency, including who
they reside with, their involvement
in financial fraud or money-related
crimes, and their solvency, checking for
bankruptcies, outstanding CCJs and
sequestrated bank accounts.
A traditional agency will also build
the client’s profile and ensure that
content and photographs are current
and represent the true likeness of the
individual.
Our practices
We have always believed in
stronger regulation for the dating
industry. Our brands are members
of either the Association of British
Introduction Agencies or the Dating
Agency Association and adhere to
their stringent codes of practice.
Some online dating companies and
apps are members of the Online
Dating Association, but only 13 are
represented out of thousands of sites.
We believe that there should be a
compulsory safeguarding procedure
that must be followed before
membership can be offered. This
should include the following:
»Terms and conditions that are clearly
visible on the website, and the
client signs their agreement to these
before payment is taken.
»A personal interview takes place
face to face or via Skype or
FaceTime to verify the accuracy
of the photographs and personal
information provided.
»The client should be made to provide
photographic evidence of themselves
and their home address through a
utility bill, which is then verified.
»Individuals should be vetted for any
previous involvement in fraud and
to check whether they have filed for
bankruptcy, have outstanding CCJs
or have had their bank accounts
sequestrated.
»Checks to ensure that each member
has realistic knowledge of how the
company operates and how their
membership will work.
»Help and support should be
available throughout the period of
membership by phone, email or
office visit.
We believe that the playing field must
be levelled within the dating industry
and that the services provided by
online and traditional face-to-face
companies must become more aligned
in terms of quality. Basic checking
standards must be deployed by all.
Company databases must be clean,
accurate and up to date. Guidelines on
safety and crime prevention must be
provided to all new joiners.
We believe
that the
playing field
must be
levelled within
the dating
industry
Our staff at Dating
Options

www.dating-options.co.uk

This article was sponsored by Dating Options. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.