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Shabbat Parashat Terumah 5782

P'ninat Mishpat: Effective Matchmaking?

(based on ruling 80111 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: In Nov. 2019, the plaintiff (=pl) turned to the defendant (=def), a matchmaking business, to find a match for her son. In the process, def’s director (=ddef) convinced pl, a senior-citizen widow, to sign up for herself as well, and so she signed on two identical contracts. They describe def’s system of building a base of options for clients but say that results, including numbers of introductions, cannot be promised. The non-refundable payment is 6,000 NIS for a year with an additional amount if a suggestion leads to marriage. The son received six suggestions, one of which resulted in a date, in the course of a few months. Pl received four suggestions, most of which she considered non-starters, before travelling abroad. Pl wants her money back from both contracts, especially the one for herself, as she was/is not interested in the service or dating and was tricked into it by ddef. Although pl signed the contracts, she was not aware and would not have agreed to its being non-refundable, which should be invalid because it is an unreasonable condition.

 

Ruling: In a previous ruling, we analyzed similar no-refund clauses. If taken literally, the business could do no work and still not have to refund, and this cannot be, even if the payment is described as a registration fee. If the service was reasonable, then even if the results were not great or the client’s interest changed, then the clause is reasonable.

The unsubstantiated claims that pl, an articulate, retired professional did not read the one-page contract or could be pressured into signing such an agreement are not to be taken seriously. Such an approach would raise questions about virtually any agreement (see Dr. Shilem Warhaftig, Dinei Chozim, p. 16-)! Even if there were some form of “coercion,” in many parallel cases this would not be grounds to nullify an agreement made with knowledge (see Bava Batra 47b).

We thus must take a look at the service provided in each case. Regarding the son, it appears that they got off to a relatively good start with ideas. Although the effort seemed to have waned with the beginning of the Corona pandemic, def agreed happily to continue their efforts. Therefore, pl is not entitled to a refund regarding her son, unless, in the coming nine months, def does not do a reasonable job.

Regarding suggestions for pl, the two sides do not differ very much regarding the facts, and it does not seem that they advanced any ideas that would have been feasible. Therefore, we allow pl to cancel her agreement, just that def can keep 2,000 NIS for the work they put into the matter until now. The rest, though, def must return. 

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