Online dating has become such the norm these days that meeting a potential partner through a friend or at a bar almost seems old fashioned. However, the online dating game comes with certain risks; most commonly, perhaps, is misrepresentation – e.g., profile pictures are outdated and profiles misleading. While this may be frustrating to someone who is looking to find Mr. or Ms. Right, it is not illegal. However, when JDI Dating (UK based operator of 18 dating sites) created fake, computer generated profiles and then messaged users from those accounts, a line was certainly crossed. Many users signed up for the paid membership so that they could respond to the messages. Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, without informing users, JDI immediately began charging monthly subscription fees.
JDI Dating has entered into a settlement order that prohibits them from selling or benefiting from customers’ personal information, and to refund fees to the duped daters.
This case highlights two important issues that the FTC does not hesitate to prosecute: negative option marketing and violation of privacy policies.
Negative Option Marketing is where a seller automatically signs the consumer up for a product or service with a recurring fee, unless the consumer chooses not to receive the offer. The law states that before charging a consumer for any goods or services sold in an internet transaction via a negative option feature, the person/company must:
-provide text that clearly discloses all material terms of the transaction before obtaining the consumer’s billing information;
-obtain a consumer’s express informed consent before charging the consumer; and
-provide a simple method for a consumer to stop recurring charges.
Contact Digital Law Group if you need assistance with your billing and privacy practices.