Match.com has paid $2 million to help settle a civil suit after finding itself accused of renewing paid subscriptions without the site users’ consent. As a result of the lawsuit, which was first brought to court in late 2020, Match.com has also pledged to make changes to its subscription and cancellation policies to make things more transparent for users.
Match.com is an online dating site with a focus on finding lasting relationships. Its parent company, Match Group, owns many similar sites including Tinder, OKCupid, PlentyOfFish and Hinge. Match.com was launched in 1995 and currently has over 21 million users.
The plaintiffs argued that users’ premium subscriptions kept charging customers but didn’t actually check to see if the user consented to this. It was alleged that when users signed up for Match.com’s premium service they were told that they were only paying for a set number of months, but they kept being charged unless they cancelled the service. Additionally, cancelling was ‘unnecessarily complicated’. Essentially, users could pay for memberships for three, six or 12 month periods, but when this time came to an end their bank account would be charged again without getting the consent of the user.
Match has denied any wrongdoing, but they’ve still paid out $2 million to the plaintiffs, and they’re going to change their site to make things clearer and easier. It seems like this is the best possible outcome for everyone: the regular users don’t need to worry about unexpected charges, the plaintiffs should be reimbursed and Match.com learnt an expensive lesson that should improve their site.
The case was tried in Los Angeles, USA and the District Attorney said that ‘We want companies to thrive, but they should be mindful to not abuse technology tools to violate consumer protections.’ Ideally, Match.com’s interests should be aligned with their users’, so the company thrives as the customer is protected, however, in this case, the company did not treat their users fairly and suffered the consequences. Whether this acts as a deterrent for future misadventures remains to be seen.
To try and prevent any further issues, Match.com was ordered to implement the following changes:
1- They should not use ‘misleading online sales information and payment mechanisms’
2- Match.com users should be able to cancel their premium memberships easily and online
3- If users decide to upgrade from free membership or do any transactions on the dating site, they should get an email confirming the charge and explain any automatic renewals
4- If Match.com wants to offer automatic renewal, this should be made clear to users
5- Users will have to give ‘affirmative consent’ for automatic renewal with a clear checkbox.
This isn’t the first time Match.com has had legal troubles: the company has also been sued for hosting fake profiles where scammers attempted to get money or personal information from Match.com users. Users received emails telling them that people were attempting to connect with them through the site, but they could only ‘meet’ if they paid for Match.com’s premium subscription. Some users did this and then discovered that the other users were fake and they had, essentially, paid money to connect with a bunch of bots.
It remains to be seen if Match.com’s policies affect potential users, or if their actions will be deemed insufficient and result in fewer people creating profiles. However, as the online dating market continues to grow and the company has the backing of a much larger parent, it seems likely that Match.com will still be around for a while longer.