The class action lawsuit alleges Tinder and Hinge dating apps

The class action lawsuit alleges Tinder and Hinge dating apps are designed to addict users

A lawsuit filed in San Francisco on Wednesday, Valentine's Day, alleges that the dating apps Tinder and Hinge are intentionally designed to addict their users.

The lawsuit — filed as a class action against Match Group Inc, the Dallas-based company that owns a variety of dating platforms — begins by noting that dating apps “have changed social reality. A millennium of traditional advertising has passed.” replaced by technology.

The 58-page lawsuit goes on to argue that while online dating has become more convenient for people who want to connect through relationships, users have paid a high price for it.

In the words of the plaintiffs: “The truth is that the apps are designed to be addictive.”

Inherently addictive

The legal theory is that the intentionally addictive aspects of the platforms are not disclosed to consumers, violating false advertising and unfair competition laws in California and elsewhere.

The complaint states that Match Group “positively portrays the platforms as effective tools for building off-app relationships while secretly doing everything in its power to attract and retain paying subscribers and keep them on-app.” .”

The complaint also invokes traditional product safety laws by calling the apps' addictive functionality a “design defect” and the apps “defective products.”

The complaint primarily criticizes Hinge's self-branding as a “dating app designed to be deleted,” a nod to its goal of getting people into meaningful relationships where they no longer need a dating app.

According to the lawsuit, Hinge's business model is designed to achieve exactly the opposite goal: “Defendant must consistently provide addictive product features in order to retain subscribers and stay in business.”

In a particularly harsh statement, the complaint says that even acquiring new subscribers is less profitable than “turning existing customers into addicts.”

Gamifying dating platforms

The plaintiffs allege that Match Group “uses recognized dopamine-manipulating product features to gamify the platforms and convert users into gamers seeking psychological rewards that Match intentionally puts out of reach.”

Examples of the strategy include the use of “push notifications,” which alert a user to an action when they are not using the platform, and incentive rewards, which supposedly “punish users for not engaging and reward compulsive users.” .

The alleged plan to get users addicted to dating platforms is successful, the lawsuit says, citing various surveys that are intended to show the level of use.

The plaintiffs are six individuals, all of whom purchased subscriptions to Tinder and/or Hinge.

For example, Burak Oksayan of San Francisco reportedly purchased a monthly Tinder Gold membership for $19.99 and a weekly Tinder platform membership for $24.99.

A Tinder Gold membership allows the user to “see who likes you and connect with them instantly,” while Tinder Platinum status allows the user to “increase their likes and super likes.” (Super Likes convey greater interest than just swiping right.)

Match group repellent

A spokesperson for Match Group commented on the lawsuit in a statement.

“This lawsuit is ridiculous and has no merit. Our business model is not based on advertising or engagement metrics. We actively strive to keep people on dates and off our apps every day. Anyone who claims otherwise does not understand the purpose and mission of our entire industry,” the spokesperson said.

Match Group is a dominant player in the dating industry. It owns eight of the leading online dating brands. Tinder and Hinge are the biggest, but other brands include Plenty of Fish, OkCupid, Match and Pairs.

Match Group states that 40% of all relationships in the US begin online and 50% of those relationships began through one of their products.

The class action lawsuit comes at a sensitive time.

Adjust group earnings

Match Group is a publicly traded company and, like many companies on major stock exchanges, maintains an “Investor Relations” section of its website. The section contains the latest financial information and interesting articles for investors, potential investors and business analysts.

Information in this section includes a letter to shareholders dated January 2024 reporting financial performance in 2023 and commenting on key metrics for the Company.

Revenue rose 6% to $3.365 billion in 2023.

Tinder and Hinge accounted for more than 70% of sales, with Tinder accounting for the lion's share of that.

Tinder appears to have had a solid year financially, with revenue growth of 11% compared to 2022. The letter said that revenue per payer increased 21%, due in part to “price optimizations.”

However, not everything was optimistic.

Despite the increases in revenue, there was a 5% loss in payers (users who purchase services) in 2023. When Match Group announced these user losses, its stock plummeted from a high of $49.24 in 2023 to $27.85 in November of that year.

The share price has partially rebounded – trading at $37.48 late Thursday evening – as the company focused on reversing the trend of user losses.

The target group is younger dates

The company plans to achieve this by focusing on updating the “dating journey” for a new generation of daters.

In 2024, Match Group wants to “focus on designing an in-app experience that resonates better with today’s younger users.” Tinder is still the premier dating app used by most 18 and 19 year olds and needs to remain relevant to this new category of participants.”

Match Group’s strategy to “leverage the next phase of dating” has several parts.

AI integration

A key plan is to use artificial intelligence to improve its products. The company said: “We believe that by combining AI capabilities with our unparalleled data and understanding of human connections, we can provide more personalized matchmaking and enhanced discovery mechanisms throughout the dating journey.”

The company expects that “as AI learns user behavior, our existing matching algorithms will be refined, which in turn should lead to even more positive user outcomes.”

The company's letter offers some ideas about how this might work: “The dating app journey begins with profile creation, which can be cumbersome for many users.”

Tinder wants to use AI to “help daters curate their photos and bios to better reflect who they are” and is testing an “AI-powered photo selector to help new users select higher quality profile photos in seconds .”

The company predicts Tinder's payer trends will evolve positively in 2024 as a result of its efforts.

Court is familiar with tech lawsuits

The lawsuit was assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the same court in which the youth social media/product personal injury liability litigation is pending.

This case involves a multi-district litigation against Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram), Snap (owner of Snapchat), ByteDance (owner of TikTok) and Google (owner of YouTube).

Federal lawsuits against these companies from across the country were consolidated for a pretrial hearing in San Francisco.

The lawsuits allege that the defendants have caused many young people to become addicted to social media platforms, causing profound harm to their mental health and well-being.

While the lawsuits against Match Group and Social Media relate to different industries, both are essentially about addiction to online platforms.

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