OPW - Oct 29 - In one of the most significant fines imposed by a government on an online dating site, UK based JDI Dating Ltd was fined by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission $616,165 for use of fake profiles.
The FTC claimed that JDI dating and its owner William Mark Thomas misrepresented their fake members to lure consumers to pay for memberships. Called "virtual cupids," fake profiles were indicated by a small “v” encircled by a “C” and observed within the profile. The FTC viewed the icon as difficult to both see and understand.
Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said, "JDI Dating used fake profiles to make people think they were hearing from real love interests and to trick them into upgrading to paid memberships. Adding insult to injury, users were charged automatically to renew their subscriptions – often without their consent.”
Apart from simply a fake profile, Steven Baker of the FTC said "this case involved the use of fake communication," between the user and JDI Dating.
The Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA) requires members to consent to credit card charges and understand what they will be charged for and understand the methods of cancellation.
The settlement also required the following of JDI:
- Disclose that they will receive communications from virtual profiles
- Prohibits them from misrepresenting their product, service refund and cancellation policies
- Unable to sell the customer database
- Cancellations must be simple and easy for the consumer
- Prohibits JDI Dating from violating the ROSCA Act
OPW was able to contact William Thomas by telephone. He said "JDI Dating denies the FTC's accusations but was happy to have reached a resolution of the government's claims that was acceptable to both parties."
This is the second time a UK based dating operation was exposed for fake profiles. The first was White Label Dating (Global Personals Ltd) in a television investigation by Channel 4 news.
JDI Dating operates ~18 private label sites, including rudefinder.com, cupidswand.com and flirtcrowd.com. No business connection appears to exist between Global Personals, Ltd and JDI Dating Ltd.
- by Marc Lesnick, Internet Dating Conference