The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is constantly in the news these days. On Wednesday, the FTC announced that it had filed a case against Match Group, the owner of most dating apps, for fraud. Match Group owns most dating apps, like Match, Tinder, OkCupid, PlentyofFish and Hinge. The FTC stated that Match tricked the users to buy subscriptions, and exposed customers to fraud and other deceptive practices.
The suit focuses mostly on Match.com. The FTC states that Match didn’t ignore the bot problems, but benefited from it. It also deceived users regularly. These charges against the company are quite heavy and important.
The FTC says that most users don’t know that 30% of Match registration are from scammers. These include different types of scams, like extortion scams, fraudulent advertising, romance scams and phishing scams. During several months from 2013 to 2016, most communication on Match came from scammer accounts.
However, bots and scammers are also present on other sites. The only difference in Match’s case is that the company earns profit through this method, which is wrong.
The app also sent marketing emails to subscribers about messages in the inbox. However, the company did that even after knowing that a bot had sent the message. Andrew Smith, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, “We believe that the site scammed users by showing them fraudulent messages. Online dating sites shouldn’t use romance scammers to earn profit.”
Match’s analysis found that, from June 2016 to May 2018, 499,691 users signed up for subscriptions and received fraudulent emails. Some users joined the company with high hopes but only found out afterward that the messages were a fraud. Others joined after Match deleted the scammer accounts. In all cases, the site trapped users into the subscription and they couldn’t get out of it.
The company used deceptive billing and cancellation practices. Therefore, most users often reversed their charges through banks. However, Match permanently banned such users.
The FTC also claims that the company has violated the “Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act” by failing to allow customers to stop the billing charges. In 2015, an internal document of Match found that users had to click six times to cancel a subscription. The users believed that they had canceled the subscription, but in reality, they hadn’t.
The suit also claims that Match tricked users by telling them that if they choose a free six-month subscription and they don’t find a match, they won’t have to pay. However, the app didn’t tell beforehand that there were other steps regarding how they had to use their subscription.
Unsurprisingly, Match is against these claims. The company claims that it is constantly fighting fraud and shuts down 80% of improper accounts in the first four hours. Moreover, it shuts down 90% of scammer accounts in a day.
Match’s spokesperson gave an official statement, “Match has helped people find love for more than 25 years. We have developed an AI that blocks 90% of the scammer accounts in a day. We want to provide the best user experience. Therefore, we believe that the FTC misinterpreted our approach and made outrageous claims. We would do our best to defend against these claims in the court.”
Some former Tinder executives have also sued Match. These former plaintiffs will act as witnesses to the FTC case. The judge of the case was concerned that the motion was an attempt to “expedite the plaintiff to death until the settlement.” However, the court may order another hearing to resolve this point.
In the current suit, the FTC has asked Match to return all the ill-earned money. However, the financial impact of the case won’t be enough to take down Match because FTC has also fined Facebook and Vizio in the past. However, their business is still booming.
This case will make headlines and it will have negative online user sentiments in general. Match owns the majority of the online dating sites, therefore, this case could affect its business.
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