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Impressed by this apparently rigorous approach, Ms Fontaine, 44, rang up to enquire about joining and a consultant invited her to an interview, not at the company’s registered offices in the City of London but at the Charing Cross Hotel on The Strand.‘I thought it was a bit strange but was quite happy because it was on my way home,’ says Ms Fontaine. She was given his email address and sent him a message. They emailed her some more details, for a man with a Persian-sounding name, who was 56 and worked in financial investments.They met at 5pm in the upstairs bar and spent an hour and a half talking about what she wanted in a partner.‘I asked her about the sort of men they had on their books and she told me she had two men immediately in mind for me. I asked specifically if these men were looking for a quick fling or a long-term relationship and she said, “If they’re paying upwards of £500 for membership, then they’re looking for a relationship.” ’She then enquired about meeting Tim but was told that he was now in a relationship and had come off their books. A strange email exchange ensued in which he informed her in pidgin English that while he was ‘very happy and excited to meet a person of such attractive profile’, he was ‘only a novice in the single life’.In further emails, she found out that he had only been divorced for two months.An internet search turned up the equally worrying fact that he had recently changed his name and that several of his companies had been fined.
He had been a member of a dating agency in Gerrard’s Cross in Buckinghamshire that had shut down and Elect had bought it. When Ms Fontaine emailed to complain, she received an email back from Daniel Andre, the CEO of the company, saying: ‘Each of our members have specific criteria and their requirement doesn’t especially match your profile, I am afraid. Unfortunately, Elect decided she owed them two months’ membership.
Ms Fontaine, who was awarded an MBE in 2007 for her charitable work, is now being chased by a debt-collection agency for outstanding fees.