The online dating industry is now about 15 years old, but sites continue to be dogged by allegations that they’re bloated with fake or inactive profiles. Attorneys who filed the newest lawsuit in this vein, on behalf of five Match.com users who are asking for class action status, say their investigation included interviews with Match.com employees who said the site deliberately takes steps that keep inactive profiles on the site as “filler profiles.”
The lawsuit also alleges that “well over half” of the profiles on Match.com belong to either inactive members or are “fake and fraudulent profiles posted by scammers and others.” That belies Match’s claim to have “millions” of members, the suit states. It also alleges that Match doesn’t do anything to clean up those profiles, which remain on the system and searchable by members for “months and sometimes years” after members stop using the site.
It includes allegations from former Match employees, one of whom stated that in 2006-07, membes were able to hide their profiles to “inactive” or “hidden.” But in 2008, Match changed its policy, only allowing corporate employees to block a profile from view.
A Match spokeswoman responded to my inquiry with a statement saying the claims have no merit and Match will defend itself. She also noted that “similar claims were dismissed by a federal judge in Dallas last Fall.”
Match.com, which was founded in 1995, is one of the top dating websites by audience. The most recently filed 10-K of Match parent company IAC (NSDQ: IACI) says that the dating network had 1.3 million subscribers at the end of 2009. It has seen these types of lawsuits before. The Dallas Morning News reported this month that the company was sued over similar allegations in both 2005 and 2009; both those lawsuits have been dropped. Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Personals settled a lawsuit over allegedly fake personals in 2007.
The IAC property is an interesting target for daters fed up with bogus profiles, because last year Match itself actually threatened PlentyOfFish.com and other dating websites, claiming they were pumping up bogus stats.
Christian Rudder of competitor dating site OkCupid, a free site which publishes a blog featuring research on online dating trends, wrote a blog post last year arguing that eHarmony and Match.com both have user bases that are more than 90% inactive profiles.