Claims on www.mumsdatedads.co.uk, for a dating service, stated "Welcome to the UK's favourite dating for parents site. Our members are single parents or are happy to date someone with children. Reignite that excitement of meeting someone and join for free!" It also stated "MumsDateDads is a dating site for Single Parents. We have kids ourselves and know from first-hand experience that it's tricky to find love when you have children".
The complainant challenged whether the repeated claims that the website was for single parents and people who were happy to date someone with children were misleading and could be substantiated, because she had joined the site and discovered that the majority of its members did not meet that criterion.
Global Personals Ltd stated that they ran nearly eight thousand dating sites for approximately two thousand clients worldwide. They said those sites were divided into three categories, defined as "General", for individuals aged 18 and over and looking for a life partner, "Mature", for individuals aged 40 and over and looking for a life partner, and "Adult" for those individuals 18 and above who were looking for a more casual relationship. They explained that members were not visible to each other across those categories. Within those categories there were other "niches", however, which were classified as "hard", meaning that members had to fulfil a particular selection criterion, or "soft" meaning members might fulfil a particular selection criterion. They explained that www.mumsdatedads.co.uk was classified as "soft" because members that joined the site were usually parents or wished to date single parents, but that their profiles were also visible to, and that they could see the profiles of, other users who had joined the database via another dating site. They said that ensured users had access to a wider range of potential partners.
They explained that, when an individual joined the site, they were invited to complete a personal profile which allowed them to state that they had children in a free text field, and to answer a specific question regarding the number of children they had. They stated, however, that it was not compulsory for a user to supply that information.
They also explained that when a member wished to search for potential partners, they could search using specific criteria, such as height, build, location, and whether they had uploaded a photo of themselves. They highlighted that one such search criterion was "children" and that a user was able to specifically search for other users that had, or did not have, children.
Although they acknowledged that not all members provided information regarding whether or not they had children when they created their profile, they stated that of the last 200 people who had logged into their account on a specific day, over 50% of them had provided that information.
The ASA understood that once an individual had created an account on the site they could access the profiles of, and their profile could be seen by, a number of other users who might not have signed up for an account through www.mumsdatedads.co.uk. We noted that although a user could include information regarding whether they had children or not on their profile, that was not compulsory. We understood that from the search of 200 members who had logged in on a specific day the majority had supplied that information. When we performed a search on www.mumsdatedads.co.uk for all men between the ages of 18 and 55, however, we noted that 56% of them had not supplied that information.
We also understood that the website did not enable users to specify that they only wanted to date someone with children, or were willing to date someone with children, unless they explicitly stated that in the free text field of their profile. Similarly, there was no way that an individual who only wanted to date another user who had children, or was happy to date someone with children, could prevent users who did not fulfil those criteria from contacting them.
We acknowledged that a user could specifically search for users who had children, but we considered that just because a user had, and declared that they had, children, that did not necessarily mean that they also wanted to date someone with children, or were happy to date someone with children. We also understood that because individuals were not specifically asked to indicate whether they were happy to date someone with children, it was not possible for an individual to search for a user who did not have children but was happy to date someone who did.
We considered that claims on the home page implied that all the members of the site were single parents or happy to date someone with children. Because we had not seen evidence to confirm that that was the case, we concluded that the claims were misleading.
The claim breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration).
The home page must not appear again in its current form. We told Global Personals Ltd not to imply that their dating site was for single parents, or those happy to date individuals with children, unless they had evidence to show that all of its members fulfilled that criteria.