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FTC Sues Match.com

The Federal Trade Commission does not have a lot of love for Match.com 

The FTC Wednesday (Sept. 25) filed suit against Match Group, the company that owns online dating sites Match.com, Tinder, OKCupid, PlentyOfFish and others, claiming it engaged in unfair and deceptive practices. The company vigorously denied the claims.

The FTC alleges the company "used fake love interest advertisements to trick hundreds of thousands of consumers into purchasing paid subscriptions on Match.com." 

The FTC also alleges the company offered false "guarantees" of success, did not provide services who unsuccessfully disputed charges, and made it hard to cancel subscriptions. 

FTC example of e-mail that it says encouraged users to pay up for 'the one'

FTC example of e-mail that it says encouraged users to pay up for 'the one'

“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’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Online dating services obviously shouldn’t be using romance scammers as a way to fatten their bottom line.” 

"The FTC has misrepresented internal emails and relied on cherry-picked data to make outrageous claims and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves against these claims in court," said Match in a lengthy online post. "The issues the FTC is focusing on have either been taken grossly out of context or permanently eliminated by Match. In several instances, the FTC is wildly overstating the impact of fraudulent accounts," it said.

Match.com lets users file free profiles, but can't respond to messages of interest without upgrading to a paid subscription. 

In order to generate business, the FTC said, Match.com took advantage of others sending bogus e-mails to nonsubs with free profiles stating that someone had expressed an interest in them, then, those were scam e-mails, serving those subs ads encouraging them to sign up for a paid account to find out the identity of the sender. 

"Hundreds of thousands of consumers subscribed to Match.com shortly after receiving communications from fake profiles," said the FTC. According to the complaint, "from June 2016 to May 2018, for example, Match’s own analysis found that consumers purchased 499,691 subscriptions within 24 hours of receiving an advertisement touting a fraudulent communication." 

"In some months between 2013 and 2016, more than half of the instant messages and favorites that consumers received came from accounts that Match identified as fraudulent," the complaint alleges.

The FTC also alleges that Match.com deceived consumers with hard-to-understand disclosures, engaged in unfair bill dispute and cancellation practices. 

Finally, the FTC said the company violated the Restore Online Shoppers Confidence Act by not providing a simple way to prevent recurring charges on their credit card, debit card or bank account.  

"The FTC is mischaracterizing what is encompassed in 'fraudulent," said Match.com. "The vast majority of the users that the FTC characterizes as 'fraudulent' are not romance scams or similar types of fraudsters, but spam, bots, and other users attempting to use the service for their own commercial purposes. In any event, instant messages were eliminated from the platform more than two years ago, and favorites were eliminated over a year ago. Email communications - which are now the dominant means of communicating - have had a “fraud” rate of 1% or less since 2013. "

The vote to approve the suit was 4-0-1, with the one being chairman Joseph Simons, who recused himself from the vote but declined to give a reason.