A Sydney fitness model has won a legal battle with an elite dating agency after a tribunal found she was pressured into handing over almost $5000 with the promise of meeting “amazing men” who “can’t wait until the New Year”.
Zoë Daly, an online coach and fitness expert who boasts 214,000 Instagram followers, signed up to the private matchmaking service Elite Introductions on November 7 last year in a bid to find a “like-minded, ambitious, successful, professional” man.
But she said she was introduced to a “very negative” man who showed no interest in her, “spoke about himself the whole time”, was “not passionate about his job”, was “ashamed” of his family and made offensive comments about her car.
Ms Daly told the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal her potential match also “looked much older” than his 40 years, when she had specified she was seeking a man aged 32 to 38.
The tribunal heard Ms Daly met with the founder of Elite Introductions, “Millionaire Matchmaker” Trudy Gilbert, at the agency’s swanky offices at 1 Bligh Street – the skyscraper that also houses the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices and upmarket law firms – on November 7 last year to discuss its services.
Ms Daly said she was “not ready to sign up that day” but ended up paying the $4995 fee for a 12-month membership because Ms Gilbert told her she had “amazing men” on the books who “can’t wait, they won’t be here in the New Year”.
She sought a refund after her first date in early December was “not at all pleasant”.
Ms Daly told the tribunal the unsuitable suitor spoke about “previous introductions and how terrible they were” and said he was going overseas until February, which confirmed in her mind that she would have been better off waiting until the New Year to sign up.
Ms Daly levelled a number of allegations against the agency and Ms Gilbert, including misleading and deceptive conduct under the Australian Consumer Law over the claim the agency boasted “amazing men” who would be snapped up before January.
She also claimed the agency and Ms Gilbert engaged in unconscionable conduct or placed her under undue influence or pressure to sign up.
In response, Ms Gilbert and the agency argued Ms Daly had “unreasonably formed the view that not even a year of introductions … could lead to a better outcome”. The tribunal heard clients can expect to meet about eight to 10 potential matches over 12 months.
But Ms Gilbert did not give evidence in person at the hearing, meaning the claims about the introductory meeting could not be tested.
In a written decision, Senior Tribunal Member Scott Anthony McDonald said that in those circumstances the tribunal “accepts the evidence of [Ms Daly] … in respect of misleading and deceptive statements and pressure sales techniques”.
He ordered Ms Gilbert and the agency to refund 80 per cent of the membership fee, totalling $4000.
Ms Gilbert told Fairfax Media she would be seeking further legal advice about taking action against Ms Daly for accusing her of “deceptive conduct”.
“I have exhibited no deceptive conduct at all,” Ms Gilbert said.
“I’ve been matchmaking for 12 years and I have introduced hundreds of happy couples.”
Ms Gilbert said she did not force Ms Daly to sign the contract and “she joined willingly”.
“Zoë had one date and a huge amount of compatibility with this man,” Ms Gilbert said.
She said another high-flying executive had given the attractive, high-earning, well-educated man positive feedback and she had matched him with Ms Daly because they had many things in common including a love of skiing and “a clear vision of their goals”.