Tech

FTC Sues Parent Company Of Popular Dating Platforms Match.com, Tinder For Fake Ads

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  • The Federal Trade Commission sued Match Group — the parent company of popular dating platforms Match.com, Tinder and others — on Wednesday
  • The FTC alleges that Match Group “conned people into paying for subscriptions via messages the company knew were from scammers.”
  • Match Group said FTC “misrepresented internal emails and relied on cherry-picked data to make outrageous claims” in its investigation.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Match Group, the parent company of popular dating platforms Match.com, Tinder, OkCupid and others for profiting off of fake ads Wednesday.

The FTC alleges that between 2013 and 2018, Match Group used fake love interest advertisements to convince hundreds of thousands of users to purchase subscriptions on Match.com, making false “guarantees,” failing to provide certain services and making it “tedious” and “confusing” for users to cancel subscriptions.

“We believe that Match.com conned people into paying for subscriptions via messages the company knew were from scammers,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC bureau of consumer protection, according to the release. “Online dating services obviously shouldn’t be using romance scammers as a way to fatten their bottom line.”

Match Group said the FTC “misrepresented internal emails and relied on cherry-picked data to make outrageous claims” during its investigation in a Wednesday statement, according to a press release.

“For nearly 25 years Match has been focused on helping people find love and fighting the criminals that try to take advantage of users. We’ve developed industry-leading tools and AI 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,” the statement adds.

Match Group also said in the release that canceling a subscription takes most people less than a minute, and over the five years of activity investigated by the FTC, 84% of subscribers who attempted to cancel their accounts did so within 24 hours of creating them.

Signing up for Match.com and creating a profile is free, but users can’t communicate with each other unless they pay for a subscription. The FTC alleges that Match sent emails to nonsubscribers alerting them that another user had expressed interest in them — along with an advertisement encouraging them to subscribe.

The users who generated those alerts, however, likely came from fraudulent accounts, so after users paid for subscriptions to see which users had expressed interest in them, as the emails said, they were led to scammers or empty pages as a result of false advertising. As many as 25 % to 30% of new, daily Match.com members are scammers, the release noted.

From June 2016 to May 2018, 499,691 people subscribed to Match.com within 24 hours of receiving the email, and those consumers were “often” billed for what was supposed to be a free six-month trial after their first six months of use on the site. Current subscribers, on the other hand, did not receive the same fraudulent email ad, according to the complaint.

Match.com CEO Hesam Hosseini allegedly sent an email to Match Group staff saying, “The FTC will likely make outrageous allegations that ignore all of Match’s efforts to prioritize the customer experience, including our efforts to combat fraud,” The Verge reported Wednesday.

Hosseini added in the email that Match Group removes 85% of fake accounts within the first four hours after they are created, and 95% of them are removed within 24 hours.

“I believe the FTC has fundamentally misunderstood our work here, and we intend to fight any allegations,” he continued. (RELATED: ‘It’s Facebook Official, Dating Is Here’: Facebook Launches First-Ever Dating Feature Using Instagram)

More than 21,000 people reported romance scams to the Commission’s Consumer Sentinel complaint database and experienced a net loss of $143 million in 2018.

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