Posted: Chase Sagum | January 29, 2015

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5 Tricks to Prevent or Resolve Online Dating Billing Nightmares

Few problems are as common for online daters as those concerning billing and collections.

For evidence of this, look no further than the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) pages for the top online dating site, especially their logs of the complaints that have been filed with the BBB against these services. A quick glance at Zoosk's BBB page reveals that, of all the complaints filed against them over the last three years, 30% of them were for billing problems. For Match.com, that number rises to 40%. Ultimately, though, eHarmony takes the cake, with a whopping 48%.

So why all the billing complaints against even the best online dating services? Based on the descriptions provided on the BBB website, many of these problems seem to result from consumers misunderstanding what they're signing up for. In other cases, attempts to cancel subscriptions go awry. For example, someone signs up for a free trial, but when they attempt to cancel their subscription at the conclusion of their trial, something goes wrong and they are charged anyway. However it happens, these billing issues can equal lots of headaches and wasted hours for would-be online daters.

Fortunately, if you can get informed about the ins and outs of online dating sites' billing and collection, you can avoid many of these problems and the stress that comes with them and get back to enjoying your online dating experience. These five guidelines will show you the way:

1. Read the fine print before you click 'submit'

Too many subscribers get click-happy when it comes to signing up for an online dating service, so much so that they click right past the terms and conditions, right past the promotion rules. Sure, they get right into the online dating experience, but what they don't realize is that they've unwittingly committed to a bunch of things, as with one unfortunate online dater who filed this complaint with the BBB:

"I joined when I should have gotten a week for free. I cancelled a week later. They will not refund my money. What a scam."

Every online dating site is required to make their terms and conditions visible to all subscribers before they sign up. This legal-sounding document is a contract of sorts. When you sign up and hit 'submit', whether you read the terms and conditions or not, you have essentially signed your name to that document.

Luckily, you can avoid a lot of these billing surprises by taking the time to read through the terms and conditions before submitting anything. Of all the tricks on this list, this is the most powerful, and I can't emphasize it enough. Read the fine print before, especially the terms and conditions, before you click 'submit'.

2. Watch those deadlines

As part of their terms and conditions, online dating services usually have strict deadlines around when you can cancel your subscription without having to pay for another period. For instance, eHarmony requires that subscribers cancel their subscription by midnight on the third day of their subscription in order to receive a full refund.

Unfortunately, complaints on the BBB website tell this sad story again and again, with minor variations:

I signed up for a seven-day trial and I canceled on day seven. [It was] never processed.

The hard-earned lesson here is that you need to be very mindful of the deadlines laid out in the terms and conditions. Especially if you haven't quite settled on your online dating service as "the one for you," keep a close eye on the cancellation deadline, mark it on your calendar, etc. Because once you pass that deadline, they will be completely justified in taking money out of your account, sometimes a lot more than you expected.

And don't take your decision down to the wire. Just to make sure it gets cancelled, you might want to cancel one or two days before the deadline.

3. Mind those special payment plans

Sometimes online dating subscribers unknowingly rush into a special payment plan (again, read those terms and conditions). eHarmony, for instance, offers a 12-month promotion in which subscribers get 73% off the normal price. Match.com offers similar 12-, six-, three-, and one-month packages. Although these plans usually lower the monthly cost, they do lock you in for the stated period of time.

There is usually no going back on these types of plans. Again, as you sign up, take care to know exactly what you're signing up for and read the terms and conditions.

4. Contact customer service

Depending on whose BBB complaints you look at, you might see some online dating customer service teams described as "mean." Granted, these are coming from people who feel they were wronged (and often admit to not having familiarized themselves with promotion rules before signing up) not from satisfied customers. So they must be taken with a grain of salt. Regardless, should you end up on the short end of a billing dispute with your online dating service provider-and you can't resolve it through their website-your best chance lies in contacting their customer service team.

Eager to avoid ugly customer complaints, the top online dating services have actually invested serious money in beefing up their customer service operations as of late. This is good news for you as the consumer and hopefully means they will be more helpful. Always try to go through your service's customer service team before escalating the situation to the BBB.

5. File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau

Sometimes, out of bureaucracy or poor communication, online daters' complaints will not be resolved. In these cases, the BBB acts as a last line of defense for consumers. However, they can help you only as you give them the right information, so be sure to give them a detailed, accurate picture of what happened. Specifically, tell them what and when you communicated with your online dating service and what the results of each communication were.

Once you file a complaint with the BBB, they will forward your complaint to your online dating site, give them 14 days to respond, and keep you in the loop as that happens. According to their website, "complaints are usually closed within 30 business days." Of course, realize that not all of these complaints are resolved in the consumer's favor, especially if it's determined that the consumer was being untruthful or that the online dating service was acting well within their rights.

An Ounce of Prevention

Yes, the old saying rings true here. Taking the time to read the fine print goes a long way toward saving you the headache of resolving billing concerns. Of course, there might still be some issues that arise-fees charged after a cancellation-but the likelihood is much lower.

In any case, you, as a consumer, need to make your voice heard, regardless of your satisfaction with your online dating service. One of the best ways to prompt companies to improve is to submit a consumer review on bestcompany.com.

Have you had a bad online dating experience? Maybe it was pure bliss? Whether your experience was good or bad, make your voice heard today and submit a user review today.

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Written by Chase Sagum

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