FTC sues Match for allegedly conning users with 'fake love interest ads'

FTC sues Match for allegedly conning users with 'fake love interest ads'
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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Wednesday sued online-dating service Match Group, alleging the owner of Match.com and other top dating apps used deceptive advertisements to trick hundreds of thousands of consumers into buying Match.com subscriptions.  

Until last year, the company allegedly sent emails to Match.com users claiming their profiles were receiving engagement including likes, favorites, emails and instant messages. But the company did not tell customers that many of those notifications were likely from scammers, according to the FTC. 

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The “you caught his eye” emails from Match.com prompted hundreds of thousands of users to buy subscriptions with Match.com to see who had interacted with their account, according to the FTC, only for those users to find that they were being contacted by scammers.

Match Group, which has a firm hold on the online dating market, owns dating apps including Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid. 

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

Match Group is pushing back aggressively against the allegations, which were filed in a Texas court on Wednesday.

“The issues the FTC is focusing on have either been taken grossly out of context or permanently eliminated by Match,” the company said in a statement. “Fraud is never good for business, which is why we spend so much time, money and emotional capital to fight it.” 

Match says it catches and neutralizes 85 percent of “potentially improper accounts” in the first four hours, and it is disputing data cited by the FTC, including its claim that more than half of instant messages and favorites between 2013 emanated from fraudulent accounts. 

The FTC is further accusing the online dating company of deceptively convincing customers to subscribe to Match.com by touting a free six-month subscription if they did not “meet someone special.” The agency says FTC did not properly disclose that subscribers had to meet a range of requirements before getting that free subscription, including messaging five unique Match.com users per month and securing a public profile within seven days.  

The consumer protection agency claims Match.Com has employed “five deceptive or unfair practices” since 2013 to solicit subscribers.