The Federal Trade Commission filed suit against a British-based dating company alleging that it created fake automated profiles to trick paid members into believing that they were receiving texts from other real people on its several dating websites.
The FTC alleged that JDI Dating created the fake profiles, tricking new users into thinking they were getting text messages from real humans. The profiles, though, were connected to automated “flirting” software.
Users were enticed to sign up by being offered free memberships to the various sites, and upon first login, the flirty texts would flood a new user’s inbox. But new users were unable to reply to any messages unless they upgraded to the paid service. Fees from $10 to $30 a month were charged to a new user’s credit card to give them the capability to engage in messaging other members.
These fake messages, the FTC said, tricked new users who signed up for the “free” accounts to quickly upgrade to the paid service thinking they were about to interact with other users.
JDI Dating operates 18 websites, including cupidswand.com, flirtcrowd.com, and findmelove.com.
In its defense, the company claimed that the robot texts were marked as such by a “vc” logo on the profiles, telling users that the profiles were “virtual cupids.” This fact, however, was not made clear to users, the government maintained.
The government also charged the company with failing to inform users that the company would automatically renew memberships, resulting in automatic charges to credit cards.
The company settled out of court and agreed to change its practices and refund $616,165 in membership fees.
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