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FTC sues Dallas-based Match over fake love ads

The FTC sued the online dating service, claiming the company got hundreds of thousands of paid subscriptions on Match.com with misleading marketing messages.
Match.com is one of the leading online dating services.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is going after Match Group Inc. in relation to fake ads that tricked users. The Dallas company calls the allegations in the commission's suit “completely meritless.” 

The FTC sued the online dating service, claiming the company got hundreds of thousands of paid subscriptions on Match.com with misleading marketing messages, according to a statement that cited the complaint against the digital provider. 

The feds allege that Match offered false promises of “guarantees,” failed to provide services to consumers who unsuccessfully disputed charges and made it difficult for users to cancel their subscriptions.

“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, in the statement.

Notices came from accounts the company had flagged as likely fraudulent, but still led to subscriptions, the FTC said in the statement. 

According to the complaint, the emails would say:

“He just emailed you! You caught his eye and now he’s expressed interest in you ... Could he be the one?”

Consumers often would have found a scammer on the other end, and didn't know as many as 25 to 30 percent of Match.com members who register each day attempt to perpetrate scams, the FTC said.

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Match, whose other properties include Tinder, OKCupid and additional dating applications, is pushing back. 

The company is “relentless in our pursuit to rid our site of these malicious accounts,” it said in its statement. “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.”

Match pointed to interactions with the agency that it disclosed dating back to 2017. The agency requested information and documents in connection with a civil investigation, and it raised potential claims relating to marketing, chargeback and online cancellation practices. In November of last year, the FTC offered to resolve its potential claims via a $60 million payment and a consent judgment mandating changes in its business practices, it said. Despite discussions, no resolution was reached.

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Last month, the FTC voted to assert claims against the company and referred the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice, Match said. But the DOJ didn’t pursue a civil case, and sent it back to the FTC. 

“Fraud isn't good for business,” Match said. “That's why we fight it.”

The company said it catches and neutralizes 85 percent of potentially improper accounts in the first four hours, typically before they are even active on the site. Within a day, the rate rises to 96 percent. 

“For nearly 25 years Match.com has been focused on helping people find love and fighting the criminals that try to take advantage of users,” it said.

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