A divorced mum-of-three who sued an “exclusive” dating agency after it failed to find her a rich boyfriend has been handed her money back by a top judge.
Tereza Burki, 47, paid Seventy Thirty Ltd £12,600 to hunt for “possibly the man of my dreams, the father of my child”, she told the High Court.
She said the agency assured her it only dealt in “creme de la creme” matches and could introduce her to “bachelors you dream of meeting”.
But J udge Richard Parkes QC yesterday ordered the agency to repay her fee, ruling that she had been “deceived” by Seventy Thirty’s then managing director.
Upholding Ms Burki’s claim, he ruled the agency’s then managing director, Lemarc Thomas, guilty of “deceit” in misleading her.
Although the agency boasted of more than 7,000 members, the truth was that only about 100 of them were men actively looking for love, he said.
Agency founder, Susie Ambrose, said Seventy Thirty had successfully matched over 6,000 lonely hearts and 63 babies had been born since she set it up in 2001.
But the judge said Mr Thomas had told Ms Burki that there were “a substantial number” of wealthy men on the agency’s books, actively looking for matches.
“She had no means of checking the truth of what he told her, and no reason to doubt it,” he added.
The Knightsbridge-based agency claimed to have about 1,500 active members and that Ms Burki had been sent five potential matches that fit her requirements soon after joining.
But the judge said: “My conclusion from the evidence is that there are at the very most perhaps 200 active members of Seventy Thirty, and probably fewer.
“That points to a maximum of around 100 active male members.
“A membership of 100 active men cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as a substantial number.”
He added: “The representations made by Mr Thomas were therefore false and misleading.”
The agency has issued a statement, saying: “Ms. Burki entered into membership with the wrong assumption about the number of potential gentlemen we would introduce her to.
“She assumed it would be like internet dating, but we are a niche, exclusive agency, not a mainstream, mass-market online dating service.
“We are not going to have thousands of members because there simply aren’t thousands of single, wealthy, high-calibre prospects out there.
“In terms of the judgement, the Judge was accurate in saying we probably only had a hundred matches for Ms. Burki.
“This is actually a positive number to be working with in the context of Specialist Matchmaking.
“By her own admission in court, Ms. Burki never read the terms and conditions and was therefore not clear about the fact that our database consists of current and past members and people who have been carefully curated and selected as potential matches through executive searches.
“Her expectations as a member were consequently lofty and unrealistic.
“Ms. Burki was found to have libelled Seventy Thirty, as the Judge said that we had sourced excellent matches for her.
“Therefore, her remarks about us being a non-reputable and fraudulent company were deemed untrue and entirely without foundation.
“In a day and age when so many people refer to search engines to research a new contact or product before they invest their time and money, baseless and intentionally damaging remarks on internet review forums can have a massively harmful effect on consumer confidence and the membership of a business.
“As the Judge said: “I have not found that Seventy Thirty lacked a sizeable database (when former members an headhunted individuals are taken into account), or was not an effective matchmaking agency, or did not in the event provide Ms. Burki with suitable matches. I have not, therefore, found that the business was a fundamentally dishonest or fraudulent operation.”
“We would like to reassure and remind our clients – both prospective and current – that Seventy Thirty has been in business since 2001 and its team of psychologists and matchmakers have developed a dating model with a great deal of success.
“To date, we’ve been responsible for matching over six thousand individuals who have, on the basis of an introduction facilitated by Seventy Thirty, gone on to have long-lasting relationships. Moreover, sixty-three children have been born as a result of our introductions.
“We are incredibly proud of the service we provide and our very many happy clients.