Agents, parents get in on ‘rent-a-girlfriend’ game

China’s recent rent-a-girlfriend trend has helped bachelors avoid mounting pressure to marry by hiring strangers as stand-ins for pushy parents. But this year, business is booming, with more agencies offer the services as high demand drives up prices ahead of Spring Festival. What’s more, parents seeking to cash in on the trend are helping their daughters hook up with agents and those looking to deceive their families.

Young women are charging an average 3,ooo yuan ($500) for a 2 day-1 night stint as a stand-in significant other, according to listings on e-commerce site Taobao. Legitimate matchmaking agencies have entered the game, and have strict rules for renters, with rates starting at 1,000 yuan a day.

According to a Liaoning TV exposé on the budding industry, one such agent in Shenyang makes clients sign a contract that clearly states “no extra services” are involved. Renters should expect “not even a hold of the hand,” the agent told a reporter.

During their transaction, the agent called the young woman’s mother to coordinate the deal, the TV report showed. Needless to say, such arrangements have caused problems in the past.

There were reports in January 2016 of a Guangzhou Province man who paid for a girlfriend only to have her disappear with the cash before she could meet his family. In February 2014, a bachelor in Fujian Province who brought home a paid stand-in was shocked when his unsuspecting parents handed her 20,000 yuan in cash as a New Year gift. She refused to return the money. The legality of such transactions is also questionable.

According to Xia Lin with Liaoning Renmin Law Firm, such contracts are not valid because the arrangement may be considered to go against moral law. Both “renter” and “rentee” are at risk, as there is no legal recourse for breach of contract, said Xia.

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