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Inside The Online Dating Industry
by Joe Tracy, publisher of Online Dating Magazine

A Closer Look at the Lawsuit Filed Against

As you are likely aware, a class action lawsuit was filed against earlier this week. The lawsuit alleges many unethical billing practices.

I must admit that I'm not surprised by the lawsuit. The reason I'm not surprised is because of the emails I've received from members complaining of odd charges on their card or "reactivating" their account without their permission after they'd cancelled.

On Tuesday, Tycko & Zavareei LLP, made the lawsuit official, filing it in Texas, where the base of operations is for A closer look at allegations in the 25-page lawsuit might make you wonder how got away with these alleged practices for this long.

From the Lawsuit Against

» tells members they can cancel anytime, however they can only cancel "by phone between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. (Central) Monday through Friday, and between the hours of 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. (Central) on Saturday and Sunday"

»'s "'Terms and Conditions' further state that the subscriber 'agree[s] not to dispute any authorized charge by or its authorized agents'. The Company's 'Terms and Conditions' further state that the subscriber 'agree[s] and acknowledge[s] that if you fraudulently report the card used to obtain your subscription as stolen, or if you fraudulent [sic] report that an authorized charge by or its authorized agents is unauthorized, you shall be liable to for liquidated damages of One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) per incident.'"

» "The Company bills monthly subscription fees and other charges to former subscribers after they cancel their subscription. The Company collects these fees without their former subscribers' authorization, knowledge, or consent.."

» "Upon information and belief, most organizations that make a majority of their sales via online subscriptions and/or memberships maintain an online system for written cancellation of subscriptions and/or memberships. Given that, upon information and belief, a majority of the Company's subscriptions are purchased online via, it is unreasonable for the Company not to also maintain an online cancellation system and written record of subscription cancellations."

» "...the Company knowingly, intentionally, and/or recklessly charges and collects money from former subscribers after they cancel the Service. The Company deceives consumers by failing to inform them, via its marketing campaign, that the Company continues to charge and collect monthly fees after cancellation. The Company sends false and misleading electronic mail messages to its former subscribers after the former subscribers have cancelled their accounts."

And those are just a few small excerpts from the entire lawsuit! Simply put, when a company conducts itself in an unethical or shady fashion, there will come a time when those wrongs are righted. It seems to me that's time has come. You can't treat your consumers like trash and not expect to get billed for cleaning. For months, I've seen's reputation sour the online dating industry as a whole. From their misleading advertising campaigns, to the "True Crew" emailing members, to the terribly conceived "20 winks" program, has upset a lot of people through apparent deceit.

The lawsuit is seeking the following nine items:

"1) An order certifying the Class and appointing Plaintiff and his counsel of record to represent the Class;

2) An order enjoining Defendant from engaging in the conduct and practices complained of herein;

3) Restitution, disgorgement, and such other equitable relief this Court deems proper;

4) Actual damages sustained by Plaintiff and all others similarly situated as a result of Defendant's unlawful conduct and practices complained of herein;

5) Punitive damages;

6) Pre-judgment and post-judgment interest.

7) Treble damages;

8) Reasonable attorney's fees and costs of the suit; and

9) Such other relief that this court deems just and proper."

Let this be a lesson. If you run a business of any type, put your consumers first and thrive through honesty versus deception. As the golden rule states, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

If you run an online dating service, the following should be a part of your core business:

1) If you allow people to sign up online, allow them to cancel online.

2) Create a service worthy of the trust of those who sign up. Be ethical in all things you do. Avoid fake profiles, fake communications, and strive to rid your service of scammers or those out to deceive your members. Build a reputation that will make people want to use your service.

3) Offer a degree of service other providers don't. For example, as pointed out in a past column, new online dating service Let's Grab a Drink actually offers a refund policy (and easy cancellation) as follows: "Just sign into our website with your member information and once logged in click on the 'delete your account' link within the Control Panel. By clicking on the 'delete your account' link, your account will be deleted. If you are a paying member and have a credit balance, your credit card will be credited for the remaining balance in your account."

4) Expire old profiles. Part of your policy be to rid your service of profiles that have gone 12 months or longer without the person logging in. This will keep your service fresh and increase communications among active members.

In essence, deceiving users will only get you so far. You might make a little more money in the short term, but in the long term you will suffer the consequences financially, legally, and to your reputation.

Never sacrifice integrity for profits. One who does will never have true balance in their life.


Cheers and Jeers
Welcome to Cheers and Jeers where every month we highlight something a person, company, or service is doing in the dating world and give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down. This week...

Cheers: Confessions of a Matchmaker
There are way too many reality shows that deal with dating and relationships on TV. Yet a new one, Confessions of a Matchmaker, is refreshingly good and educational. The series follows matchmaker Patti Novak as she tries to match clients in Buffalo. She's a "tell it like it is" lady that knows her stuff and is very blunt with what clients are doing right and wrong. This is a great show for people wanting to improve the impression they make on a date. But that's only if you apply the comments to your own life. And number one on the list - never ever ever ever ever talk about past relationships on a first date. And for heaven's sake, men, learn to ask interesting questions instead of just talking about yourself and your accomplishments! Confessions of a Matchmaker airs weekly on A&E.

Note: If you know something an online dating service is doing right, please let me know. We are going to be highlighting more of the positives of specific services, providing them with free publicity as a result of their desire to be more user friendly.

Joe Tracy is publisher of Online Dating Magazine and is often quoted by the media in relation to online dating topics. His Inside the Online Dating Industry column is published once a month.

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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