DALLAS — In a ruling of particular interest to online dating sites, a federal judge in Texas ruled Friday that Match.com had not breached user agreements with class-action plaintiffs who complained that the site was rife with inactive and fake profiles.
With all contracts, and as articulated in this ruling, it becomes the case of the devil being in the details.
The certified class action alleged that as many as 60 percent of user accounts were either fake or inactive. The plaintiffs also charged that Match.com failed to take steps to vet new profiles and remove and block scammers from the site.
"The reason Match.com does not take any serious measures to rid its site of inactive, fake, or fraudulent profiles and, in fact, takes steps to ensure such profiles remain on the site, is because Match.com expressly and publicly relies on the artificially inflated number of profiles to demonstrate that it is a growth company, gain prospective subscriber and their payment for joining the site, and retain paying subscribers," the suit said.
But on Friday, U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay said that Match.com had not breached its user agreements, finding the agreements do not require it to remove dormant or inaccurate profiles.
The agreements' fine print "in no way requires Match.com to police, vet, update the website content" or verify the accuracy of profiles on the site, the judge wrote.
"Language such as 'you are solely responsible,' cannot be read to mean that Match.com accepted responsibility for the authenticity of members’ information posted on its website. Moreover, Match.com disclaims any such liability relating to the truthfulness of members’ information several times throughout the agreement."
Lindsay also said that the agreement contains extensive disclaimer language through which Match.com disavows any responsibility for incorrect or inaccurate content on its website.
The federal judge dismissed claims of breach of contract, and asked them to explain why he should not also toss out claims of deceptive trade practices brought under Texas law. Lindsay gave them until Aug. 27 to respond to that charge.
Other dating sites also have faced similar claims. Yahoo in 2007 agreed to pay $4 million to settle a suit accusing it of allowing fake profiles from people not interested in using the site for dating.