By Martha Graybow
It's not easy finding love in cyberspace, and now some frustrated
online daters say they were victims of fraud by two top Internet
matchmaking services and have taken their complaints to court.
Match.com, a unit of IAC/Interactive Corp., is accused in a federal
lawsuit of goading members into renewing their subscriptions through
bogus romantic e-mails sent out by company employees. In some
instances, the suit contends, people on the Match payroll even went on
sham dates with subscribers as a marketing ploy.
"This is a grossly fraudulent practice that Match.com is engaged in,"
said H. Scott Leviant, a lawyer at Los Angeles law firm Arias, Ozzello
& Gignac LLP, which brought the suit.
Match "promotes the policies of integrity to protect members, and yet
they themselves, we allege, are misleading their entire customer
base," he said.
The company said it does not comment on pending litigation. But Match
spokeswoman Kristin Kelly said the company "absolutely does not"
employ people to go on dates with subscribers or to send members
misleading e-mails professing romantic interest. The company has about
15 million members worldwide and 250 employees, she said.
In a separate suit, Yahoo Inc.'s personals service is accused of
posting profiles of fictitious potential dating partners on its Web
site to make it look as though many more singles subscribe to the
service than actually do.
Yahoo spokeswoman Rochelle Adams said the company had no comment on
The suits, which both seek class-action status, came as growth in the
online dating industry has slowed, although Web matchmaking still
remains a big business.
U.S. consumers spent $245.2 million on online personals and dating
services in the first half of 2005, up 7.6 percent from a year
earlier, according to the Online Publishers Association. That's a
slower growth rate compared with several years ago.
At the same time, competition among online dating services is fierce,
with some sites offering newfangled features such as extensive
compatibility surveys to match up people with similar temperaments and
ALLEGATIONS OF 'DATE BAIT'
The Match lawsuit was filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court
in Los Angeles by plaintiff Matthew Evans, who contends he went out
with a woman he met through the site who turned out to be nothing more
than "date bait" working for the company.
The relationship went nowhere, according to his suit. Evans says Match
set up the date for him because it wanted to keep him from pulling the
plug on his subscription and was hoping he'd tell other potential
members about the attractive woman he met through the service,
according to Leviant.
His lawyers said Evans, of Orange County, California, was not
available to comment, but described him as a working professional in
Leviant said his client found out about the alleged scam after the
woman he dated confessed she was employed by Match. The lawsuit also
claims the company violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organization Act, a law best known for being used in prosecuting
The Yahoo suit was filed last month by Robert Anthony, of Broward
County, Florida. The suit, brought in U.S. District Court in San Jose,
California, accuses the company of breach of contract, fraud and
unfair trade practices.
Anthony's lawyer, Peter McNulty of the McNulty Law Firm in Bel Air,
California, did not respond to requests for comment.
Another complaint against Yahoo -- although not yet formalized
in a lawsuit contends that some men pose as females on the Yahoo
Romance and Personals site and attempt to lure other males to meet
them resulting in attempts to molest the 'innocent' teenage males.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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For a humorous look at this problem, please go to:
http://telecom-digest.org/td-extra/honesty.html for two cartoons which
illustrate the problems with 'internet chat'.