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Match.com connected daters to fake accounts to boost subscriptions, US regulators say

Match.com may have connected non-paying daters to bogus accounts just to get them to subscribe, according to federal regulators. In a lawsuit filed today against Match Group, the Federal Trade Commission alleges that the company connected Match.com daters with fake accounts in an effort to get them to subscribe. The case hints at the murky line between genuinely helpful notifications and those that prey on people’s curiosity to monetize a service.

Non-paying Match.com users cannot view or respond to messages they receive on the service, but whenever they receive one, Match.com emails them to let them know, encouraging them to subscribe to see the message.

The FTC claims that, in hundreds of thousands of instances, Match.com notified daters of messages even after the company detected that the account sending the message was fraudulent. Once these people subscribed, they opened the message to see that the user had already been banned or, days later, would be banned for on-platform fraud, the lawsuit says. When these users then complained to Match.com or tried to get their money back, Match.com denied any wrongdoing.

The FTC claims this behavior led to 499,691 new subscriptions, all traced back to fraudulent communications, between June 2016 and May 2018. The lawsuit also claims that these automatically generated email alerts were often withheld from paying subscribers until Match.com completed a fraud review. It still allegedly automatically sent the advertisement email to non-paying users, however.

Up until mid-2019, Match.com offered a free six-month subscription to anyone who didn’t “meet someone special” during the first six months on the platform. The program came with a lengthy list of rules, including that users had to submit their photo and have it approved by Match.com within seven days of purchasing their subscription. The FTC claims that between 2013 and 2016, people bought 2.5 million subscriptions but only 32,438 received the subsequent free six months. Match.com allegedly billed 1 million people after their first six-month package ended to extend their subscription.

The FTC also claims that Match.com made canceling subscriptions incredibly difficult —canceling requires over six clicks, according to the complaint. Match.com also allegedly locked people out of their accounts after they disputed charges, even if they lost their dispute and had time remaining in their subscription. The FTC is seeking monetary relief for consumers who lost money from the company’s practices.

Match Group didn’t immediately respond for comment on the case when reached by The Verge. However, Match.com CEO Hesam Hosseini has already spoken out against the allegations internally, sending an email to executives earlier today that rejected the FTC’s claims.

“The FTC will likely make outrageous allegations that ignore all of Match’s efforts to prioritize the customer experience, including our efforts to combat fraud,” Hosseini wrote.

In the email, Hosseini said the company detects and neutralizes 85 percent of fraudulent accounts within the first four hours of their existence and 95 percent of them within a day. He also argued the accounts that the FTC defines as fraudulent are not related to scams but rather bots, spam, and people trying to sell a service on Match.com.

“I believe the FTC has fundamentally misunderstood our work here, and we intend to fight any allegations.”

This content was originally published here.

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