Online dating sites are an increasingly common way people seek to find romance. But, according to the Federal Trade Commission, these sites could also be a source of scams or a haven for scammers. The FTC recently filed a lawsuit against the company that owns popular dating sites and apps such as Match.com, Tinder, OKCupid, and PlentyOfFish, alleging that the company used fake advertisements designed to trick consumers into believing someone had shown interest in them and purchase a paid subscriptions on Match.com.
According to the FTC’s complaint, many consumers received emails or instant messages containing attention-grabbing text such as: “He just emailed you! You caught his eye and now he’s expressed interest in you… Could he be the one?” (referred to as “You caught his eye”-type notices in the complaint) Although Match allows consumers to create free accounts, to actually read these messages Match required consumers to upgrade to paid subscriptions. For many consumers hoping to find that special someone, the representation that specific suitors were already eager to meet them proved impossible to pass up. Many consumers responded to these emails and messages, often paying more than $100 for a subscription in the hope of connecting with these people who had already “expressed interest” in them.
According to the complaint, millions of these deceptive messages were sent to consumers from accounts the company had already flagged as likely to be fraudulent. The company allegedly prevented existing subscribers from receiving communications from those suspicious accounts yet permitted the messages to go to non-paying consumers in hopes of inducing them to buy subscriptions.
For those wondering whether these messages were effective, according to the FTC’s complaint, they were wildly effective. The FTC says the company’s own data show that from June 2016 to May 2018, consumers bought 499,691 subscriptions within 24 hours of receiving one of those “You caught his eye”-type notices.
The FTC’s investigation of Match revealed other deceptive conduct according to the complaint. The company allegedly offered consumers a “guarantee” that “[i]f you haven’t found someone special within 6 months, we’ll give you an extra 6 months FREE.” But Match attached myriad strings to this “guarantee” that consumers could only find by following the “Learn more” hyperlink and finding a dense block of text listing the conditions attached to the “guarantee.” As a result, many consumers were allegedly charged for an additional six-month subscription they expected to be free.
The FTC also took issue with Match’s cancellation process alleging that Match violated the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA) by failing to provide a simple method for a consumer to cancel its membership and stop recurring charges. According to the complaint, the cancellation process was complicated and confusing and ultimately resulted in many consumers being charged for renewals after they believed they had canceled their memberships. And many of those who disputed the charges with their financial institutions and lost allegedly had their accounts terminated by Match, meaning those consumers could not even access the services for which they.
You can read the full complaint here.
If you or your business ever find yourselves as the target of an FTC investigation or an investigation by a state attorney general, it is always advisable to retain an experienced FTC defense attorney to represent you and your business during such an investigation. Even better is to avoid an investigation altogether. An FTC attorney can review advertisements and marketing materials to determine whether they are free from deceptive or unsubstantiated claims.
Lubin Austermuehle’s Chicago consumer fraud and business fraud defense lawyers assist businesses who are the target of an investigation by the Illinois Attorney General or the FTC or have been named in a lawsuit accusing them of fraudulent or deceptive practices.
Our Chicago business lawyers have more than thirty-five years of experience helping business clients on unraveling complex business fraud and breach of fiduciary duty cases. We work with skilled forensic accountants and certified fraud examiners to help recover monies misappropriated from our clients. Our Chicago business, commercial, and class-action litigation lawyers represent individuals, family businesses and enterprises of all sizes in a variety of legal disputes, including disputes among partners and shareholders as well as lawsuits between businesses and consumer rights, auto fraud, and wage claim individual and class action cases. In every case, our goal is to resolve disputes as quickly and successfully as possible, helping business clients protect their investments and get back to business as usual. From offices in Elmhurst and Wilmette, near Waukegan, and Oak Brook, we serve clients throughout Illinois and the Midwest.
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