Tereza Burki paid £12,600 to Seventy Thirty to hunt for ‘possibly the man of my dreams’
A divorced mother-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 paid £12,600 to Seventy Thirty to hunt for ‘possibly the man of my dreams, the father of my child’, she told the High Court in London.
The 47-year-old 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.
And, as well as giving her her money back, the judge awarded her £500 for the ‘disappointment and sadness’ she suffered. Her total award was £13,100.
However, Mrs 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’.
The judge said: ‘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 Mrs Burki’s claim, Judge Parkes ruled the agency’s then managing director, Lemarc Thomas, was 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’.
Mrs 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’
Management consultant Mrs Burki lives on this upmarket street in Chelsea, West London
When she signed up with the agency in 2014, Mrs 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’.
Agency founder Susie Ambrose said Seventy Thirty had matched over 6,000 lonely hearts
But the most important factor for Mrs Burki, who lives on an upmarket street in Chelsea, West London, 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 more than 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 Mrs 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 it had about 1,500 active members and that Mrs 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.’
When she signed up with the agency in 2014, Mrs Burki’s requirements for the men she wanted to meet were ‘not modest’, the judge added
Seventy Thirty: The Knightsbridge-based agency claimed it had about 1,500 active members
He added: ‘The representations made by Mr Thomas were therefore false and misleading.’
You shouldn’t promise people who are in a fragile state of mind, in their mid-40s, the man of their dreams
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, Mrs 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 Mrs Burki and induced her to pay a substantial fee on the strength of his deceit.’
The judge ruled the agency’s then managing director, Lemarc Thomas (pictured) – who has also founded a company called The Matchmaking Agency – was guilty of ‘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.’
Speaking about the Google review that called the agency a ‘scam’, the judge ruled: ‘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.’
Giving evidence during the case, Mrs 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.’
Companies House records list Mrs Burki as a consultant for a now-dissolved firm called ‘Gentlemen for Hire’, previously known as ‘Gent for Hire’ and ‘Date A Gent’.
Subir Desai, partner at Mayfair-based Charles Douglas solicitors, which was representing Mrs Burki, said after the case: ‘Mrs Burki is both pleased and relieved that after over two years of very stressful, timeconsuming and costly litigation that HHJ Parkes QC has now passed judgment in her favour.
‘From the very outset our client’s primary objective was to recover the considerable fee of £12,600 paid to Seventy Thirty. This was refused by Seventy Thirty and therefore our client was forced into taking legal action.
‘Our client’s position has always been that she was grossly misled about the size of Seventy Thirty’s active membership. Had she known the true extent of the active male membership, she would not have paid the substantial dating agency fee requested.
Giving evidence during the case, Mrs 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’
‘Indeed HHJ Parkes QC in his Judgment stated that ‘there were too few active members to enable the matchmakers to do their job properly’. The Judge goes on to state in his Judgment that had Mrs Burki known the true size of the membership, she would not have joined Seventy Thirty.
Mrs Burki would like to thank HHJ Parkes QC for the detailed and considered judgment handed down today. She very much now looks forward to the next chapter in her life.’
Also after the case, Ms Ambrose said in a statement to MailOnline: ‘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.
Companies House records list Mrs Burki as a consultant for a firm called ‘Gentlemen for Hire’
‘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.
‘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.’