Match.com Class Action Lawsuit, Complaint Alleges Fraud

Man needs a date and isn’t getting the attention he seeks from women online. Man also needs money (you’re never too rich or too thin.) What should man do? File a class action lawsuit against a deep pocket, of course! In the case filed June 9, 2009 in the US Southern District Court of New York, Sean McGinn – forlorn single man – sued Match.com for deceptive practices that have caused him deep, emotional, lasting dating trauma. While the plaintiff’s attorneys make some understandable points regarding misleading practices online, it appears these class action lawyers missed the biggest legitimate complaint of all – and I’ll disclose what it is in this article.

As most should know who join virtually any dating site including match.com, the world’s largest online dating service, you can put up a profile but you have to pay to play. On match.com, paying to play is to the tune of approximately $20-40 per month, depending upon the length of time you subscribe and the options you choose. But you don’t have to pay to check out the service – and that is obvious instantly when you create a profile. But McGinn believes that match.com bears the responsibility – and fails to deliver – to differentiate between who is a paying subscriber and who is not. As such, a man can pay for membership and write to endless women whom he does not know are non-payment members who cannot reply, causing him wasted time and heartbreak.

“When a subscriber cancels their subscription, their profile continues to appear to be that of an active subscriber, nothing indicates to the viewer their limited access to read e-mails or respond to them… Match derives a benefit from giving members ‘matches’ who can’t reply because the notifications that someone has expressed interest in them induces some non-subscribers to subscribe in some cases.”

So if McGinn didn’t understand the way match.com works, wouldn’t the match.com folks have given him his 40 bits back and avoided a class action lawsuit? Probably… but for people like Mr. McGinn, apparently the deep rooted pain doesn’t end there.

“Match defrauds the consumer of his/her time, labor, and emotional investment… Match’s policy causes humiliation and disappointment for some members of the Class who feel rejected when their e-mails get no reply… causes severe emotional distress and anxiety for some members of the Class, including those who keep writing e-mails to one member after another and never hear back from any because he/she is writing to people who’ve cancelled. Because the writer has no way of knowing this, he or she may experience profound personal anguish, suffering which is easily preventable by Match.”

The next part of the brief does make a point but it misses the mark by a mile. A member is reported as “active” whether they login to cancel an account, deal with a billing issue, or something other than an intent to find a date. Is that deceptive? I’m not sure how anyone can differentiate the reason why someone logged into their account until after the deed is done. Additionally, how many times will a member log in to cancel an account? 23 times per month? There are some legitimate points about raising the activity level on match.com in order to entice membership, but nothing compelling.

Now here is the reason why this firm should have hired me to perform some expert review of their case and complaint, LOL! I observed that when a user merely reads a private email message sent from match.com, the act of viewing the email triggers the user’s online status to “active!” Now that is a significantly misleading and deceptive tactic which other users have already complained about prior – the misleading representation that someone is active or has “logged in” when they have not, in fact, logged in or performed any activity with relation to the service.

Let’s take an example where boy meets girl for the first time and likes her. While he doesn’t want to lose her and appear to be insincere, he still will review his emails from those who reply to his prior love missives but won’t login to start a new connection. Unbeknownst to him and probably most users, match.com will report him as “active” not just be replying to an email that runs through the match.com system, but merely opening an email message that could be an advertisement that he’d like to put in the trash, the likely result of code embedded invisibly in the email. When the girl logs in (or has a friend do so) to check on the sincerity of the boy, he appears to be checking out women every day while insisting that he prefers to see her exclusively. Now this deliberate attempt to mislead non-members into thinking that there are far more active users than actually appear is deceptive and match.com profits from this deceptive practice.

Match.com has been accused of fraudulent conduct before – in 2005 a lawsuit was filed against match.com and Yahoo, alleging that attractive employees were required to go out on a set number of dates with elegible single men. This lawsuit was later dropped. So what is going to happen now in 2009? It’s difficult to say, but if this is litigated, it will provide us with some case law on what is and what isn’t considered a deceptive practice in the shady practice of trying to lead web site visitors to the conclusion that more “action” is happening on a web site than is truly occurring in the hopes of coaxing another membership fee. At the very worst, it will be an exercise in entertaining courtroom fodder meeting reality TV as it will expose the life of the latest forlorn 40-something New York male looking for love in all the wrong places… the New York Southern District Court… and you can download the complaint against match.com here.

Michael M. Wechsler, Esq.

Internet / Mobile entrepreneur since 1989, Intellectual Property attorney since the mid 1990s, former in-house counsel at iVillage.com, Senior Vice President of Business Strategy at Zedge, Co-Founder of the IDT Internet Mobile Group, E-Discovery expert and legal consultant with Kroll Ontrack, and owner and operator of TheLaw.com

Michael M. Wechsler, Esq. – who has written posts on The Law Professor.


Comments

  1. I finally got tired of receiving several contacts each day from women on match.com even though I only signed up a three day free trial which I cancelled after only two days. I finally called their customer service number and told them that I felt it was false advertizing to suggest that I was still an active member. I feel this sends the wrong message to people when you don’t respond, simply because you can’t respond to explain that you are no longer an active member. I agree with the class action lawsuit, this needs to be changed for fairness to active members and those looking for a relationship. I was smart enough to delete my picture before I cancelled my membership but match.com prefers those remain so they can be used as bait to attract new members. If only active members were profiled the on-line dating would be a more positive experience.

  2. I’m sure it is BS. I did not meet anyone I was interested in the first 6 mos. A few good conversations, or so I thought. Then nothing. Never heard from that guy again. That happened a few times, it’s like they get you hooked, they say how much they want to meet, then they disapear. I have a picture of a really good looking guy and his first e-mail to me was about 20 lines long, telling me he liked my profile and is going back into the service for 6 months, and when he gets back he will look me up. How convenient ~ that will be after my free 6 mos. is up, so if I am really interested, I would need to join again. RIGHT ! I am still on my 6 free months and I have not had any more mail. I even wrote Match and complained during my 1st 6 mos. that there were some guys, same picture – different name OR there were pictures of the same guy on 2 or 3 pages of my 18 / 36 pages. If they have all these new members every day like the commercials say – why would the same pictures come up. Then they have even sent me womens profiles that were interested in me ~~ I HAVE MADE IT CLEAR THAT I AM ONLY INTERESTED IN MEN ! One of my friends that knew I was on Match, tried to look up my profile and my pictures are not even on the site now that I am in my free 6 months. All in all, I feel MATCH, is not what they say it is.

  3. I don’t think you should make light of the emotional suffering of a guy who has been actively misled into thinking he’ll find love, or at the very least has the potential to find love, but discovers that potential is merely an illusion designed to fleece him out of his money.
    By keeping all profiles active, whether you are a paying member or not, then Match.Com is surely creating a false illusion that the potential for finding love is much greater than it really is. Match.Com should be forced to reveal the true scope of active members (those who you can physically reply to emails) relative to those who cannot. Lovelorn individuals can then decide beforehand whether or not they want to subscribe to a the dating website whose non-active members may outnumber active members by as much as 5 to 1. We need greater transparency from Match.com… we need to know whether ones emotional commitment in finding love can be better spent elsewhere. Forcing Match.com to come clean as to exactly how many of it’s members are viable and potential partners is surely the first step. Mocking this guy for his severe emotional distress and anxiety at being rejected is not helpful.

  4. Marcus – Match has it listed that a woman hasn’t logged in for at least two weeks. 😉 I don’t disagree that there definitely is an element of fraud in all of these online services. I’m all for uncovering what lurks at Match, JDate and several others which have suspect statistics if not virtual fraud. But the deep emotional distress he claims from not getting an answer back? If he couldn’t get any responses, I’d have to wonder what he’s writing! Perhaps I take these claims with a grain of salt because, in the legal business, absurd exaggeration doesn’t seem to be optional, it’s practically required! Point taken. 🙂

  5. Actually, Match.Com lists members inactivity at three weeks not two. Certainly that is the case in the UK. However, this is a minor point. Any member who has not been active within a three week time frame is almost certainly a non-paying member. That means they cannot reply to emails unless they subscribe. Whether you are a subscriber or just simply a member is determined by whether you are physically paying for the service. Match.com claims a member base of 15 million (quite impressive) yet it’s subscriber base is quoted at just 1.3 million. That means at any given time 13.7 million members cannot respond to either emails or winks, sent by subscribers, unless they pay. Paying subscribers simply do not know which individuals are valid subscribers or just simply members. The two/three week inactivity flag shown against someones profile is facile because, should a member (non paying subscriber) click on an email sent to them their inactivity level is reduced showing them to be more active than they really are.
    Quantifying the level of emotional distress that Mr McGinn suffered is certainly a grey area. But certainly a compelling argument can be put forward that if an individual invested a very significant proportion of his time and labour in the pursuit of finding love, believing in all honesty that the objects of his affection were viable people with which to strike up a potential relationship, to then discover they were nothing of the sort. They were people who could never respond to him unless they were prepared to pay for the privelge, would he not feel a degree of anger and an overwhelming sense of feeling cheated. This is not about being rejected as it’s being portrayed by some commentators, it’s actually far deeper than that.

  6. Marcus – in the US, Match lists inactive members up to three weeks. I am in complete agreement with you about whether Match and other services should be punished for some of its questionable business practices. I completely agree with you – my questioning the quality of the complaint is that it doesn’t reflect even the understandable genuine feelings of frustration, anger and being cheated! Here in the US we play to the press and emotions. Too many times it becomes a circus for the absurd. And within all of this exaggerated behavior, I find it amusing that the biggest gripe of all is missed in the complaint – the part where the mere click to open an email from Match apparently sends a message to their server to change a user’s status to current and “active.” Talk about misleading… Great points, truly. Glad to have you here from across the globe!

  7. Well, for someone who has driven herself ( and possibly THE guy) crazy suspecting a man who seems perfectly reliable and honest and yet seems to log on to Match daily, this is certainly food for thought.
    What a cruel practice.

  8. Match.com is definately committing fraud. Once you resign from the site, which everyone should do, your profile remains. Match does not make it clear that you have resigned from the service, rather they use you to enhance their service without telling you. It gets better especially since youre paying $40 per month. They should provide some security on the site and protect against scammers from North Africa and other places. Match just takes your money and doesnt care what happens after they get it. Try to contact Match customer service after the north african scam. I got some guy in Nicaragua who said he reported to “no one” at Match but had little power to do anything to assist. The bigger scam is Match.com any scams resulting from the site are secondary.

  9. I stopped my subsciption to Match.com over one year ago. I have not been able to find a way to communicate or demand my profils is removed from the site. I also cannot get the to stop sending profile anouncements. Is there no way to force these guy to withdraw one’s profile and the constant advertising?

  10. I paid for a 6 month membership and the “guarantee” was that if you didn’t find someone, match.com would give you 6 month’s membership free. The time grew near, and I had fulfilled the part I had to do (x # of emails sent a month, profile on all the time, etc. etc.) and was looking forward to my free 6 months. On 9/16 (which might have been the 6 month date) I went to log in and couldn’t. I tried all the suggestions from them and then was on hold FOREVER, but finally got a live person. She informed me that “someone” changed my password and removed some photos on 9/16. Clearly it wasn’t me. She told me that my membership had “rolled over” so my account was charged for something over $100. for a new 6 months, but they were so sorry about the problem that they would give me one month FREE. I protested saying I was due for 6 months free. “Oh, no,” she says, “that’s only for new members!” “But, but, I was a new member,” I say,”and I did everything to qualify for it.” Turns out I would have to do a new site (and you know what a pain in the ass that is) and get the one month free, and that would probably roll over to god knows what). I tried to get transferred to a supervisor; she left my on hold intermittently for a long time to check records. I gave up. I said cancel me – I won’t pay the new 6 month fee, you won’t owe me a month, and it will be DONE. Of course, she agreed.

    Then I got kinda mad and looked up online. I suggest emailing with complaints or calling her at 1-214-576-9416 or writing match.com at IAC World Headquarters, 555W 18th Street, New York, NY, 10011 or calling 1-212-314-7300.

    Harassment at least feels good. If you know how to get in on the class action lawsuit against them, tell me, please.
    H

    Oh, did I have fun on match? Yep, went on kazillion dates and met quite a few really nice men – most ones I wasn’t interested in romantically, but hey, they were interesting and I am still exploring a relationship possibility with one of them.

  11. I too, have considered myself the victim of someone, “leading me along”and being dropped with no explanation and left hanging in the air and have felt the pains of bereavement …but haven’t charged anyone for anything criminal. Anyway, who gives the dating services the right to offer (free membership) and then demand what they offered (for free) payment for using something(a service)that they offered with the bounds & limitations that they themselves established? If they don’t want the user’s to take advantage of the benefits of what they are offering, then don’t offer it!

  12. Somethings are better off left alone…like a bad recipe.. the more you stir it, the worse it gets.