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 Judge Richard Parkes QC today ordered the agency to repay her fee, ruling that she had been “deceived” by Seventy Thirty’s then managing director.
He told the court: “Gertrude Stein quipped that whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to shop.
“This case is about a woman looking for romantic happiness who says she was tricked into shopping in the wrong place, paying a large sum to a dating which, she says, made promises but failed to produce the goods.”
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.
And the management consultant would never have paid her money and joined up had Mr Thomas not knowingly given her “a wholly false impression”.
When she signed up with the agency in 2014, Ms Burki’s requirements for the men she wanted to meet were “not modest”, the judge added.
She wanted a wealthy man with “a lifestyle similar or more affluent than her own” and, ideally, “multiple residences”.
But the most important factor for Ms Burki, who lives in Lennox Gardens, Chelsea, where homes sell for millions, was that her soulmate would be prepared to have more children, as she wanted four.
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 2011.
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.
And she relied on Mr Thomas’s word before spending “a large amount of money on a dating agency in the hope of finding a partner who would give her a fourth child.”
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 canot 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 judge accepted that the agency did have a “sizeable database” and was not “a fundamentally dishonest or fraudulent operation”.
And, had Mr Thomas told her the truth, Ms Burki “would have had little cause for complaint.”
But he added: “What I have found is that Mr Thomas falsely represented the size of the active membership of Seventy Thirty to Ms Burki and induced her to pay a substantial fee on the strength of his deceit.”
“Had Ms Burki known what the true size of the active membership was, she would not have joined Seventy Thirty.”
Worried about running out of time to have another child, she “felt very let down and disappointed by the fact that Mr Thomas’s claims for the service turned out to be untrue.”
And, as well as giving her her money back, the judge awarded her £500 for the “disappointment and sadness” she suffered. Her total award came to £13,100.
Against that, Ms Burki was ordered to pay Seventy Thirty £5,000 in libel damages after writing a damning Google review of the agency, describing it as “a scam”.
“Ms Burki has not proved that Seventy Thirty lacked the means or intention to operate an effective match making service, let alone that it was engaged in a fraudulent scheme to extract money from its clients for the benefit of its founder” the judge ruled.
Giving evidence during the case, Miss Burki told the judge: “You shouldn’t promise people who are in a fragile state of mind, in their mid-40s, the man of their dreams.
“You are entrusting a service you believe is professional, who will take care of your interests and have your best interests at heart.”