Rendevu is an Australian company that has recently launched its escort booking marketplace in the UK with the aim of unshackling ‘the world’s oldest profession’ from its seedy, unsafe image.
Launched as a mobile-first web app, though accessible on the desktop too, Rendevu doesn’t use take a cut of the booking fee, and nor does it charge escorts to sign up. Instead, it charges each user a small additional fee (currently around £5) for each booking made through the platform. Rendevu’s founder, Reuben Coppa, told STG that it’s “a modest fee to encourage repeat use of the platform.”
As well as keeping fees low, Rendevu also makes a lot of noise about the additional safety it’s trying to provide for clients and escorts. For example, to sign up as a service provider on the platform, escorts need to take a selfie with a designated code to prove their photos are of themselves and are realistic.
On the client side, checks are more stringent, and based on proving your real identity upon arrival at your appointment. To do this, you need to show a government-issued form of ID that matches the credit card you pay to use – cash is an option, but a card is still required for pre-authorization to ensure that escorts always get paid. Users also need to use your real mobile number.
When you open the site, it performs initial geolocation based on IP address, which Coppa says has “proved accurate in the vast majority of cases”. Regardless, it asks for access to your location too, and if you grant it, more accurate geolocation is provided via GPS data from your phone or computer. Rendevu also says it tracks appointments, which is an aspect we dug a little deeper into with Coppa.
“The escort and client locations are tracked throughout the appointment. The escort and client must confirm arrival, settlement method, appointment start and can review the other party once the appointment has finished. The appointment data is anonymised after two weeks.”
This is going to be an aspect of the service that many people find uncomfortable, given the propensity for sensitive personal data to become a target for hackers. Coppa also clarified exactly what client data is held, and where.
“Our servers are hosted in the UK and Australia. We store the clients mobile number and alias. Credit card information is stored off site with our payment gateway.”
Rendevu: The journey so far…
Across Australia (Sydney only) and the UK (London only), Rendevu says that a total of 830 escorts have registered on the platform, with 320 of those in the UK. On the user side, 561 clients have registered in the UK in just the last few weeks. Coppa says he’s assessing demand from “a couple of key areas in the UK” for future launches, and that more broadly, it “will head east into Western Europe. Local laws, market size and current service accessibility are key variables.”
That point of legality is a key one for Rendevu, which is ultimately taking some steps towards make escorting safer. Coppa explains:
“Prostitution is legal in the UK. Rendevu is a platform that allows escorts to list their services, rates and availability and make it easier and safer for them to connect with clients.”
Unfortunately, that does leave the possibility that victims of sex trafficking could theoretically end up listed (as has been alleged in several ongoing legal cases against Backpage.com) on the platform, having ‘complied’ with the required ID checks – and it’s not an issue currently in the sights of Rendevu.
It is, however, a problem that will need addressing if Rendevu wants to become the ‘acceptable face’ of escorting to a digitally-connected generation.
Read next: Best VR porn sites 2017