The US Federal Trade Commission is now taking efforts to shift focus to the online media. The regulator is suing JDI Dating Ltd, an operator of dating online sites, for allegedly creating fake profiles as a strategy to lure its users to pay more.
In a settlement with the agency, the English dating pool must shoulder a fine of $615,165. It is also prohibited from creating fake and computer generated profiles just to trick its users into automatically upgrading into paid memberships. The company is also prohibited from imposing monthly charges without members’ consent.
At the center of this case is JDI’s practice of creating fake profiles just to make some targeted users think that they would be connecting with potential love interests. The catch here is that once those users get into the bait, they would be enticed to upgrade into paid memberships, only to find out that the profiles were bogus.
That’s not all there is. Once the users sign up for paid membership, they would unknowingly be automatically charged for renewal of their periodic subscriptions. The victims
to this scheme may only get out through canceling their memberships.
The upgrade fee collected for paid memberships usually range from $10 to $30 for a year. Most members are unaware that renewal of their membership is automatic. The FTC also discovered that the automatic renewal provision is actually stated in the Terms and Conditions, but is buried into the fine print of the multiple-page text.
JDI currently operates 18 dating online sites globally. Among those arte flirtcrowd.com, findmelove.com, and cupidswand.com. The watchdog also maintains that the company breached the FTC Act through its misrepresentation of sources of communications from fake profiles and through improper disclosure of automatic renewal terms.
This is not the first time that FTC sued a company for the same practice. In 2008, it filed charges against Classmates.com for also creating fake profiles just to convince users
to upgrade to paid memberships. The online site eventually agreed to settle the legal complaint in 2010 for a whopping $9.5 million.
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