- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hell hath no fury like lonely hearts who think they’ve been bamboozled by an online dating service, and five of them are taking Match.com to court to settle the score.

But the nation’s leading online dating service is in no mood to be falsely accused.

“The claims have no merit, and Match will defend the lawsuit vigorously. Similar claims were dismissed by a federal judge in Dallas last fall,” a Match.com spokesman told The Washington Times.

In a quarrel that looks out of step in this rosy-red Valentine’s Day season, three men and two women have filed a class-action complaint in U.S. District Court in Dallas, saying Match.com’s subscription-based service “is little more than a scheme to induce members of the public to join (and pay for) Match’s website, based on false pretenses.”

Match.com says it has millions of “active” subscribers, but “well over half” of the profiles are inactive or fake, contends lawyer Jeffrey Norton of Harwood Feffer LLP in New York, who helped file the lawsuit Dec. 30.

Screen capture from Match.com website. (Courtesy of Match.com) ** FILE **
Screen capture from Match.com website. (Courtesy of Match.com) ** FILE ** more >

The lawsuit is based on the plaintiffs’ experiences, plus testimony from former employees and researchers who have “pulled tremendous amounts of ‘proof’ right off the site,” Mr. Norton said.

“People are vulnerable,” he said. “They are looking for love, and I’ve heard some terrible stories, where people lost a lot of money on these scams.”

Subscription rates can range from $34.99 a month to more than $100 for a six-month subscription.

But sources familiar with Match.com and the online dating industry say the lawsuit is what’s unbelievable.

Match.com is a profitable company, so it’s a “natural target” for a lawsuit, said Mark Brooks, who runs the Online Personals Watch blog.

Scammers hit every online dating site, so big companies such as Match.com have developed ways of identifying and purging the phony entries, said Mr. Brooks. About two-thirds of the Match.com work force are customer-service representatives, he said, and while these employees can recognize and remove phony images, “it’s a constant battle.”

Other industry sources, who asked not to be identified, said dating sites always have inactive profiles.

Subscribers can meet a lot of people at first and then “take a break” while they are dating, sometimes for 30 or 60 days, said one woman who has been associated with the industry for years.

People usually — but not always — hide their profiles during these interludes, she said. But they definitely re-engage the service when they want to be discovered again.

Another reason for no responses or inactive accounts is that a person is simply not interested in the contact, the industry insider added. “That’s just part of dating.”

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