I signed up for an online dating service. Do I have to pay the initiation fee?

Question: 
I signed up for an online dating service that has a $20/month fee. When I got my credit card bill, there was a $600 "initiation fee" charge that I didn’t know about. Do I have to pay the initiation fee?
Answer: 

No. Under Ontario's Consumer Protection Act, 2002, you may be charged an initiation fee in addition to the monthly fee so long as the initiation fee is not more than two times the annual fee. If you have monthly fees of $20, the annual fee would be $240. The initiation fee of $600 is more than two times the annual fee, and exceeds the amount permitted under the law.

You can contact the dating service and tell them that their fee violates the Consumer Protection Act. Ask them for a refund of the amount by which the fee exceeds the legal amount (you should get $60 back, in this example). If they refuse to give you a refund, you may file a complaint Ontario's Ministry of Consumer Services. The Ministry has complaint forms and additional information on its website at https://www.ontario.ca/page/filing-consumer-complaint. You can get more information about these types of prepaid services on the Ministry's website at: http://www.sse.gov.on.ca/mcs/en/Pages/Memberships_and_Services.aspx. You can also get more information from our webinar, Prepaid Services, beginning at the 18:18 and 42:58 marks.

This Common Question was prepared by Community Law School (Sarnia-Lambton) Inc. in partnership with Your Legal Rights, a project of CLEO.

Resource notes: 

Please note that we at CLEO cannot give legal advice or help you with a specific legal problem. Please visit our Find Services section to help find key legal and community services in your area, including your local community legal clinic. This section will lead you to a wide range of services that you can sort by region, legal topic, or type of organization.

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