What you need to know before using an introduction agency.

The Introduction Agents Act 1997 is operational from 1 July, 1998. The Act has been introduced to overcome unfair and unscrupulous practices in the introduction industry.

This fact sheet briefly outlines consumers rights under the Act. For complete details you should consult the Act itself (available, at a small charge, from Information Victoria, 356 Collins Street, Melbourne toll free 1300 366 356).

Who can be an introduction agent?

There are restrictions to ensure that undesirable people will be excluded, for instance, people convicted of a serious offence within the past five years. Prospective introduction agents must notify the Business Licensing Authority that they intend to operate as an agent. The Business Licensing Authority keeps a Register of Introduction Agents. For a fee, you can inspect the register and obtain a copy of any entry.

While the Act doesn't apply to all people offering dating-type services, it generally covers anyone who will match you with someone else for a personal relationship or social outing.

What information must you receive before signing a contract/agreement?

The introduction agent must give you detailed written information including:

  • Agent's name;
  • Type of level of service provided;
  • Price for each service level and how you should pay;
  • How the agent will carry out the matching process, for instance whether your preferences will be strictly adhered to or used only as a general guide;
  • Current total membership numbers, including the numbers of males and females;
  • How you will be introduced to a potential partner; and
  • The agent's refund policy and complaint procedures.

Before you sign an agreement, you must acknowledge that you have received the above information.

What is an introduction contract/agreement?

It must be in writing and must contain:-

  • A notice of your right to cancel the contract/agreement within three days;
  • Names and contact details of the parties involved;
  • A full description of the service to be provided and its terms;
  • The price of the service and method of payment;
  • A notice stating that the Act forbids up-front payment of more than 30% of the contract price before any service is provided; and
  • Period of the contract, refund conditions.

You and the agent must sign the document and you must be given a copy of it immediately. The contact/agreement must contain all of the above information - otherwise the contract is void (ie. Not legally binding).

What about prepayments

Introduction agents cannot demand more than 30% of the agreed price as an up-front payment before providing any service. The exception to this is where:-

  1. the amount to be paid is $200 or less;
  2. the amount to be paid under the agreement, plus all amounts payable under other agreements between the same parties in the 30 days before the agreement is signed, is $200 or less; and
  3. the amount to be paid under the agreement, plus all amounts payable under other agreements between the same parties in the 12 months before the agreement is signed, is $1,000 or less.

Can I pay by instalment?

Where the contract price is more than $200 the balance, after payment of the up-front fee, must be paid in equal instalments spread evenly over the period of the contract.

What's the cooling-off period?

All introduction contracts are subject to a cooling-off period of three business days. To withdraw from a contract you must give the agent written notice. If you withdraw, the agent is entitled to keep $50 or 10% of the contract price, whichever is less, but must refund all other money paid within seven days of receiving your notice.

Can the agent vary the service ?

Agents can't offer a different level of service unless you enter into a new contract.

What if an agent can't provide introductions?

Where there is no reasonable chance of you being provided with the introductions you want, the agent must warn you in writing and you must acknowledge you've been given this warning. In such cases, you can withdraw from the contract at any time, but will have to pay what is owing at that time, plus either $50 or 10% of the contract price, whichever is less.

What's now allowed under the Act?

Offences include:-

  • agents or employees of introduction agencies pretending to be clients available for introduction;
  • agents falsely claiming that a particular person or person with specific characteristics is available for introductions.

How can my personal details be used?

Agents must ensure that your personal information is used only to provide introductions, with access to that information restricted to the agent, their employees, and other specified people authorised under the Act. Where agents or their representatives compile lists or potential clients, they must tell these potential clients why their details are being sought.

More information

For further enquiries, contact the:-

Office of Fair Trading and Business Affairs
GPO Box 123A
Melbourne Vic 3000
Telephone: 9627 6000
Free call: 1800 136 716
Interpreter Service: 13 14 50