The Federal Trade Commission is suing Match Group, accusing it of deceptive advertising practices that prey on lonely people.
The online dating giant, which owns Tinder, OKCupid and a collection of other matchmaking sites, is being sued in U.S. District Court by the regulatory agency for allegedly scamming hundreds of thousands of customers with messages advertising love interests that were never there to begin with.
The FTC accuses the Dallas company of using ads that advertised messages like, "He just emailed you! ... Could he be the one?" to trick consumers into purchasing a subscription to Match.com in order to see the fake messages sent to them.
Between June 2016 and May 2018, Match's own analysis found nearly half a million people bought subscriptions within 24 hours of receiving the fraudulent messages, according to the FTC's complaint.
Match responded to the suit, claiming the FTC had "misrepresented internal emails and relied on cherry-picked data to make outrageous claims." It vowed to fight the agency's claims in court.
In order to dupe consumers, Match used "hard to understand" disclosures, according to the FTC. The dating site promised consumers a free six-month subscription if they didn't meet "the one" but didn't disclose numerous other requirements to receive the offer.
Once a customer had subscribed, the FTC says, Match also used unfair and deceptive billing and cancellation practices. The process was found to be so confusing that it "ultimately prevented many consumers from canceling their Match.com subscriptions."
Additionally, Match's practices violated the Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act by failing to provide customers an easy method of putting a stop to recurring fees.
Match's own employees described the cancellation process as "hard to find, tedious, and confusing," the FTC said.
Match has faced allegations of fraud related to its dating platforms before, but the company says email communications between Match subscribers have a fraud rate of 1% or less.
"We've developed industry-leading tools and AI [artificial intelligence] that block 96% of bots and fake accounts from our site within a day and are relentless in our pursuit to rid our site of these malicious accounts," Match said in a statement Wednesday.
Match Group employs about 350 people at its headquarters. The company has recently begun an aggressive expansion into global markets while Tinder subscriptions have fueled revenue growth.
Business on 09/26/2019