There is nothing more unromantic than performing background checks on a potential date, but horrifying tales of dating abuse prompt governments across the world to introduce controversial regulations which mandate criminal background checks for every user signing up with dating agencies. The potential for abuse in state regulation of dating agencies is huge, as people could demand confidential information of others without proper justification.
But will self-regulation suffice to weed out criminals from the online world of love and romance?
State regulation is important in order to protect individuals from scammers and criminals in the generally unregulated online dating industry, London based entrepreneurs and the founders of Personal Dating Agent Ltd (PDA) Alexandre Errera and Maxime Leufroy-Murat told IBTimes in an interview. Although we can perform background checks on our clients, but we cannot do the same for their dates, the duo said.
Government regulation of dating services was brought into focus after the U.S. International Marriage Broker Act took effect in March 2007, which requires international dating services to perform background checks when matching American singles to foreigners.
In both the U.K. and U.S. online dating is largely unregulated unless there is criminality involved such as illegal sexual services or fraudulent behavior, Leufroy-Murat said. In the U.K. there are signs of a Clare's Law being introduced in the near future that will grant women access to the criminal history to new partners in order to allow women to know if a partner be violent or abusive, he said.
PDA employs a Screening Committee which decides whether to accept or decline each member after the Introductory Call, if the prospective members' expectations are unrealistic, immoral or unlawful, we reserve the right to decline him/her, and refund the amount paid, Errera said.
Errera emphasized on the importance of performing background checks of their clientele, the the safety of our clients and their dates is of paramount importance. We are currently working on an effective system to implement this.
Dating agencies, being facilitators, could be at the receiving end of a date going wrong, What happens at the actual date is the responsibility of the two individuals involved, Leufroy-Murat said.
PDA also gives safety tips to clients on dates and offers a service whereby the client can inform them if everything is going ok during the date, through a text message.
Romance Made Easy
Personal dating agents or dating experts, offering professional services to create and manage your online profiles and set up dates, are gaining popularity among single working professionals who do not want to be bothered with the hassles of internet dating.
Typically, dating experts interact with their clients to create a suitable profile and to spot a suitable date, based on questionnaires or interactive sessions. Stipulated number of dates is guaranteed on signup, which are arranged by the agency after going through several profiles of people who are looking for a date.
One of the major criticisms against dating agencies is that they often end up being the final destination for those looking for short-term affairs outside marriage. However, Errera and Leufroy-Murat dismiss the idea of extramarital affairs: We, in no way, encourage extra-marital affairs and we do not take married clients, insisting that their background checks make sure that married clients do not sign up for dating experts' assistance at PDA.
Skewed Male-to-Female Ratio
Though currently confined to the developed West, dating agencies see huge business potential in highly populated, conservative nations like China and India. The dating scene in China and India is huge business and is predicted to grow by 1,500%. 60% of those who use online dating services are unmarried and under-30, Leufroy-Murat said.
The preference for sons over daughters has led to an imbalance in the male-to-female ratios in developing countries such as China and India. In China, this has been exasperated by the government's one-child policy that makes it harder for men to find suitable women to marry. Studies have shown that if the situation in China does not change, by 2015, there will be 120 males to 100 females, which of course, can lead to huge problems for men when it comes to dating and marriage, Leufroy-Murat said.
The Internet has provided more opportunities for modern singletons to arrange their dating outside of arranged marriage. It has been particularly useful for the young and career-focused individuals who are delaying the age they marry and who may want more control of their love life. There are great opportunities in developing countries as changes in attitudes to dating take effect and social trends move away from the traditional conservative methods of dating, Leufroy-Murat concluded.