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Free ads service Gumtree is closing its dating and encounters section, claiming it's a reaction to customer feedback.

The eBay-owned site said its dating section was giving lower levels of satisfaction than others, so it was closed before Christmas. Managing director Suchi Mukherjee told the BBC it was a difficult decision, but the site could not be all things to all people.

The decision is attracting some criticism in Gumtree forums, although many speculate that the real reason for the closure is the shortage of real men and women behind the adverts.

One poster wrote: "in all the ads i put up i never found or meet a single gen female, so yes it was fun looking but really a wast of time, maybe its were i live near portsmouth, it seems to be a dead zone for swinging down here".

Other posters not living in Portsmouth seem to have fared better.

The decision may seem odd - Gumtree is not terribly different from Craigslist, which started life in San Francisco with distinctly lively dating and encounters sections, as well as fields for more specialised lifestyle choices.

Just as likely is that the time and effort required to deal with dodgy ads no longer justified income from the page impressions the sections delivered.

A few years ago, a UK-wide group of local newspapers stopped taking adverts for pets because they were increasingly being used by 419 scammers.

In other news, or rather a genius piece of PR, a site likely to be picking up traffic from Gumtree's decision, IllicitEncounters.co.uk reckons the cold weather has led to a flurry of new applicants.

The site told a gullible Telegraph that it had gained 2,500 new members in the last six days, most of them from the most snow-bound areas of the country like Dorset, Devon, Hampshire and Berkshire. And you thought your colleagues working from home were just mucking about and building snowmen... ®

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