SYDNEY (dpa) – Australia’s consumer watchdog will investigate major online dating websites as part of an international initiative, local media reported Monday.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will look at confusing pricing, misleading advertising, and contracts with unfair conditions, the Sydney Morning Herald said.
It will also investigate how well the websites warn against scams by other users.
The agency has received nearly 1,770 complaints about dating and romance scams that have led to losses of about 16 million Australian dollars (about 14.5 million US dollars) this year, it said. Last year, the figure was 25 million Australian dollars.
“We think that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” commission deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard was quoted as saying.
Some individuals have lost 100,000 Australian dollars in online dating scams, she said. Those include extortion by people prowling dating websites to obtain “intimate videos” from unsuspecting members.
“We’re convinced it’s being underreported,” Rickard said. “We know a lot of people are too embarrassed to ever tell anyone, and we also know some people will go for years without admitting to themselves that they’re being scammed.”
The wider investigation was initiated by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network and involves more than 50 consumer protection agencies worldwide, the newspaper said.