SHANGHAI: China has initiated its first standard for matchmaking services, aiming to stop illegal practices that could break the subscribers' hearts as well as cheat them out of their money.
Couples in Zhongxian village, Yongxi county, Fujian province, take wedding photos amid a gingko forest last Friday. [Xinhua]
The national standard, enacted on Tuesday, stipulates how a matchmaking agency should conduct its services, train staff and track the consequences.
"An agency should try its best to satisfy clients and keep improving its services," it says.
The standard will boost the quality of matchmaking services, which will influence subscribers' well-being and social harmony, according to the standard initiated by the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
But experts say it is just a standard, which can hardly punish any illegal practice, but may, in the long term, lead the industry to develop better.
Of more than 900 matchmaking agencies in Shenzhen, about 700 are running without a license and only 10 percent of single men and women say they would use the agencies, according to Guangzhou Daily.
Da Dan, a professor with Shenzhen University, discovered during a 15-month investigation that some agencies charge up to 1 million yuan ($147,000), only to hire people who pretend to be rich with a higher education, to meet their clients, the paper says.
Last December, a retired primary school teacher in Guzhen town, Anhui province, complained in a letter to the Shanghai Matchmaking Organization Administrative Association that he was cheated out of nearly 25,000 yuan by a matchmaking agency.
"I found an advertisement on Northern Weekly on June 5, 2008, that said that a 35-year-old plump lady, who has obtained millions of yuan from her late husband, is looking for a husband," Shen Zhi'an wrote in the letter. After posting an 800-yuan commission, a 21,000-yuan deposit, and 2,000 yuan to keep his subscription for five years, Shen could not reach the matchmaker.
In 2004, a 34-year-old woman sued a matchmaking agency that promised to serve her until she found a husband. The agency arranged two dates for her, both of which were under her expectation.
In November 2004, Shanghai Xuhui District People's Court ruled that the agency return her service charge.
Zhou Juemin, general manager of Shanghai Jinguoyuan Matchmaking Agency, said Shanghai already has industry standards for matchmaking agencies, but illegal practices, more often with online matchmaking services, still exist.
"Most matchmakers have a low education and can hardly provide services to suit singles' needs. Most singles are unwilling to subscribe to the services," she said.