"It is a very strong case when it comes to consumer fraud," says Norah Hart from her office in New York City where she is a partner with Treuhaft & Zakarin. "It is specifically about misleading the consumer."
Hart recently took the first step in a potential multi-million-dollar class action suit on behalf of Sean McGinn and others who regularly use the international online dating service in hope of finding a life mate.
The complaint, filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, yet to be certified as a class action, alleges that Match.com is violating the Fair Trade Practices Act because it leads subscribers to believe that every profile they see online is, like them, an active subscriber. "Match.com portrays people as subscribers when they are not – and they portray as them as reachable when they are not."
The document claims that Match subscribers, like lead plaintiff Sean McGinn and others have been defrauded of millions of in fees and compensatory damages because a high percentage of current Match members have cancelled their subscriptions and are no longer reachable. Some may have temporarily suspended their subscription—others may have taken advantage of the trial period and posted a profile but never actually bought a subscription. In addition, Hart argues that Match deliberately hides that fact from subscribers.
"Match allows you to put up your profile up for free without being a subscriber," Hart says. "But once that trial period expires, Match.com still presents you as reachable. You can send an email but the person won't read it, they won't even get it!"
"A simple analogy is--I sell you a six pack of ginger ale and two of the cans are empty," says Hart. "If I sold you six cans and you believe that all six are the same, but they are not. Four of them are what you are looking for and two of them are empty--now how do you feel about that?"
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Norah Hart is a partner with Treuhaft & Zakarin. She handles civil litigation involving contract, tort, and discrimination law. Prior to law school she was a grant writer for homeless and low-income families at Housing Works and Catholic Charities. She graduated magna cum laude from University of Massachusetts at Amherst and earned a Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School in May 2005.