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Match.com faces lawsuit over fake, inactive profiles

January 6, 2011



Dallas-based online dating site Match.com is facing a federal lawsuit alleging that more than half of its profiles belong to inactive members or scammers.

The complaint, filed Dec. 30 in U.S. District Court in Dallas, alleges that the company does not remove profiles of customers who cancel subscriptions or vet profiles that may be fake. The complaint also alleges that Match.com encourages members to renew subscriptions by sending them a message from an inactive or fake profile expressing romantic interest.

Five men and women, none from Texas, are asking for class action status. They accuse the company of breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and negligent misrepresentation.

"The claims have no merit and Match.com will defend the lawsuit vigorously," Match.com said in a prepared statement.

Match.com, founded in 1995, is among the top online dating websites. In 2010, the dating site saw an increase in subscriptions and revenue. According to the most recent earnings report for parent company IAC, Match.com brought in $38.1 million and had about 1.82 million paid subscribers.

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages and repayment of subscription fees. A subscription costs $34.99 for one month, $19.99 per month for three months, or $16.99 per month for six months.

The complaint comes at a peak time for the industry, the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, said Julie Spira, who owns cyberdatingexpert.com and helps clients write profiles for dating sites.

Match.com is no stranger to lawsuits. In 2005, Match.com was sued in California over allegations that the company hired employees to create profiles and entice members to keep their subscriptions going. The case was dropped. Another case, filed in 2009, also was dropped.

But this time will be different, said Jeffrey Norton, lead attorney on the lawsuit and lawyer at New York-based Harwood Feffer LLP.

"We have a strong complaint based on strong investigations," he said.

Norton says that he and others researched and spoke to Match.com subscribers, employees and subcontractors.

Spira said that online dating sites often count all types of members – even those without a paid membership – to make their sites seem more promising.

For example, she said, a member may join for a free weekend or free month but then not sign up for a premium membership – making them unable to see messages from other members or causing a profile to be inactive for months at a time.

"It would be great if the site had some kind of notice that not all members can receive e-mails or if there was a box you could check for only premium, paying members," she said.

"But that might also show the world that it's a few million less members and maybe they don't want to show the world that," she said.