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Inside The Online Dating Industry
by Joe Tracy, publisher of Online Dating Magazine

A Look at the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act



This month, a new law goes into effect that places restrictions on agencies that help American men find a potential bride from overseas.

The law is a result of the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act which was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law last month by President George Bush. Here is a paraphrase of the key requirements of the law:

1) International marriage brokers can't provide U.S. citizens with any information about women under the age of 18.

2) International marriage brokers can't provide U.S. citizens with any personal contact information of any woman until the following conditions are met:

- A criminal and marital background check must be run on the man. The man must sign the background check (either in writing or electronically).

- That background check must be provided to the woman the man wishes to communicate with and it must be in the language the woman speaks.

- The woman must be provided with information on U.S. laws about her legal rights and resources she can contact in regards to issues like domestic violence in the U.S.

- A signed consent form allowing her information to be released to the man wishing to communicate with her.

Read the full act for additional information.

President Bush Signing the Act into Law

In essence, this law seeks to protect overseas women from abusive men. Since overseas women are generally not familiar with U.S. customs, laws, society issues, and U.S. men, the law seeks to fully inform them.

So how many men actually meet and marry foreign women? The Act estimates the number to be between 8,000 to 12,000 a year.

I actually support this law, even though it will create a hardship with some international marriage brokers. This law arose out of a genuine need versus the online dating industry background checks, which was simply one company's apparent attempt to get media publicity by pushing background check legislation.

As the Act points out, American men that use international marriage brokers are generally looking for a woman they can control. It is a widespread problem. In addition, overseas women generally aren't educated in U.S. domestic violence issues. There are growing numbers of overseas women being abused (and some even killed) as a result of hooking up with American men they know little about. Nearly 50% of immigrants reported physical abuse by an intimate partner during their lifetimes. And that number could be higher when you consider complaints never filed. As you can see, this is definitely a widespread problem in need of a solution. The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act provides that solution.

So what happens to companies that don't comply with this new law? They can be fined up to $20,000 for each violation! There can also be jail time involved.

Effect on the Online Dating Industry
This law targets sites/agencies that are specifically aimed at hooking up U.S. men with overseas women. Since typical online dating sites like and Yahoo! Personals aren't "international marriage brokers" they don't have to specifically worry about this law. However, it also beckons that online dating services should be careful in how they approach communications between Americans and foreigners. If this new law causes a huge influx of overseas women using general online dating services then congress may start taking a closer look at that issue.

The unfortunate result of this law is that it will put many legitimate companies out of business and will create a monopoly of a handful of international marriage brokers that come up with an effective means to follow the law. Perhaps the law calls for too much. But it is addressing an actual need.

I'll keep you posted as to any further developments in relation to this law and any court challenges it may face.

Tip of the Week
We're to the fourth tip for building a strong user base. Last week I said that I'd address driving traffic to your Website in this week's tip, but I'm going to table it for one more week in favor of this week's tip, based on a conversation I had with someone today, on improving your male/female ratio.

Tip #4: Attract More Females
This morning I was speaking to a gentleman who is thinking of starting a new online dating service. He called me to discuss some insight I provided in a recent MSNBC TV appearance. As we chatted, I told him that some online dating services have problems with their male to female ratio. Many ratios heavily favor men anywhere from 60/40 to 70/30. This makes it harder for men to find success because they heavily outnumber the women.

When True entered the marketplace as, this is one issue they tackled with great success. For a limited time, they allowed women to use their service for free and only charged men. This allowed them to gain an influx of women to their service in order to create a better ratio. Smart. As I was telling this to the gentleman I was speaking to on the phone, he said that it was just like many clubs who allow women in for free in order to boost the ratio in the club. He nailed it.

It's a great concept. So is female ad targeting. For example, if you find men heavily outnumber women in a particular city then you should start doing targeted advertising to women in those areas. Look for radio shows in that area that have heavy female demographics. Then advertise. This applies across all advertising mediums.

It's vitally important that you try and keep a balanced ratio, otherwise your service could create high dissatisfaction and users may look elsewhere.

Next week I promise we'll tackle the first (of several) tips on improving your traffic numbers in order to have an audience to "sell" your services to.

Joe Tracy is publisher of Online Dating Magazine and is often quoted by the media in relation to online dating topics. His Inside the Online Dating Industry column is published every Friday.

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