Marriage agencies and the law
With the advent of the Internet, marriage brokerage has changed, and in recent years we have witnessed the development of large corporate players such as Meetic or Attractive World. Can these companies do as they please?
First of all, it should not be forgotten that they must respect the law that regulates matrimonial brokering. According to Article 6 of the law of June 23rd, 1989 on consumer information and protection, "the offer of meetings with a view to the establishment of a marriage or a stable union, proposed by a professional, must be the subject of a written contract.”
In addition to this, these businesses must comply with several formal rules (specifying their name, registered office, price, etc.), failing which the contract is void. The advertisements themselves are also regulated: in addition to the address and telephone number of the contracting person, a member must specify their age, family situation, sector of activity, region of residence, and what the individual wants to find in the person they are looking for.
In addition, brokerage professionals face criminal sanctions if they pay someone to respond to an ad, or if they put a client in contact with a fictitious person. They must also comply with the law on online contracts, which imposes specific rules on consumer information and withdrawal.
Beyond these basic rules, it is interesting for both online dating companies and their clients to look at what the case law says. The question has arisen as to whether a marriage brokerage contract established with a married man is valid. Indeed, it is not uncommon that the customers of these companies do not tell the truth about their family situation, or register on sites whose selling point is adultery like Gleeden, which fuels the anger of religious groups.
Does the brokerage contract established with a married person flout public policy and morality as enshrined in the Civil Code? The Court of Cassation replied in the negative (Cass. 1ère Civ. Nov. 4th, 2011, n°10-20114), but it should also be noted that the person in question was in the process of divorce, and the judges did not want to sanction a man who wanted to remarry and who was accused of trying to take advantage of the situation.
It should also be remembered that the request was for the validity of the contract and not for the client's behaviour. When deciding whether the latter has violated the duties of marriage, judges tend to convict the spouse who seeks to establish relationships online. In the context of a divorce for fault, it was pronounced against the exclusive wrongs of the wayward spouse for violation of the obligations of marriage, whereas there had been no carnal consummation (Cass. 1ère Civ. April 30th, 2014, n°13-16649).
This position of the judges is perplexing. Legally it holds (it is not the same rules that one seeks to enforce depending on whether one attacks a contract or a married person), but it is contradictory from a moral point of view. Today professionals have no responsibility for this kind of drift, while their clients can perfectly well be judged severely for having used their services.
In conclusion, companies have to worry above all about complying with consumer protection rules, while their married customers mustn’t forget that virtual or not, infidelity remains a violation of the duties of marriage and can cost them dearly in the context of a conflicting divorce.