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Wednesday, August 11, 1999 Published at 19:44 GMT 20:44 UK


Dating agency splits with trade body

Club Sirius boasts of well-educated members

The UK's largest matchmaker has been kicked out of the body that regulates dating agencies following an "an unprecedented volume" of customer complaints.

The Association of British Introduction Agencies (ABIA) made the decision to part from Club Sirius, based in Macclesfield, Cheshire, after "disgruntled clients" had contacted it.

ABIA director Karen Mooney said that problems with Club Sirius had continued over a long period with "hundreds upon hundreds" of letters flooding into the association concerning a wide range of grievances.

"These ranged from unsuitability to the levels of service received by staff and the charging structure which differed depending on age and sex," she said.

Code of practice 'broken'

"We are the kind of industry where most people don't complain because they are a bit embarrassed but we were getting letters every day."

It said Club Sirius had failed to live up to the association's code of practice, which is supported by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

Ms Mooney, said the association is obliged to protect the image of the £50 million-a-year industry, and its members, who are often reluctant to complain.

But Club Sirius dismissed the annoucement as a case of "jealousy", and said it had an overwhelming success rate in introducing high-profile people.

The agency, which prides itself on the quality of its "intelligent, well educated, articulate" membership, says had not received any formal notice of the expulsion.

'Sour grapes'

Agency director Kate Corbett said: "We are more likely to get people come to us who've had a bad experience with other agencies.

"I think a lot of this is because we are the largest and most successful agency - sour grapes. We have a procedure for complaints and our success is obvious."

Besides playing Cupid, Club Sirius organises national events, where people can make "new friends and have fun". These range from sherry tasting to summer balls.

Before 1991, the industry was largely unregulated but a massive increase in the number of people looking for partners prompted the OFT to support the ABIA.

The Internet has been cited as one of the biggest driving forces behind the growth.

In the first quarter of this year alone, the association reported a 35% increase in registrations with agencies compared to the same period last year.

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