It's the ultimate ruse: Lure in millions of customers with a "free dating app," get them hooked on swiping, and then—when they least expect it—start charging millions of dollars (or $9.99). Laugh maniacally.
Sound ridiculous? Well, last week, Florida resident Billy Warner filed a class-action lawsuit against Tinder in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California over its new subscription fee version—Tinder Plus—in which he accuses the company of doing that very thing.
For those unfamiliar, Tinder Plus is an upgrade from the free app that allows users to undo swipes, browse profiles outside their geographic area, and enjoy unlimited likes. In the U.S., the company is charging up to $9.99 per month for users under 30 and $19.99 per month for those over 30. (We really thought the first lawsuit would have involved ageism, but we digress.) Warner says he was prompted to pay $2.99 for the service.
In the complaint, obtained by Fusion, Warner claims that Tinder engaged in a "false advertising scheme" and always had the intention of charging users money.
"[Tinder] offered these free services with the goal in mind of enlisting a user base of tens or hundreds of millions of users, with the ultimate goal of later changing the rules of participation and deceptively and forcibly migrating a substantially percentage of its user based to a paid subscription model."
Not only that, Warner argues that Tinder didn't properly warn customers about the pending fee—he only found out about it when he ran out of "likes" and a screen popped up informing him he could "Get unlimited likes with Tinder Plus.”
Warner says he's not alone in his anger and dedicated an entire half-page of the lawsuit to a chart full of complaints from allegedly angry customers, taken from the Google App store. For example:
“I’m done The way you guys are trying to monetize the app is garbage. Really? I have to pay if I like too many people? Immediately uninstall. Thanks guys.”
And this one:
“Nine bucks a month? I’d rather have ads every 20 swipes than this money grab crap. You have lost a daily user. Goodbye”
This obvious public outrage, according to Warner, is why he filed a class-action lawsuit—and while he "does not know the exact number of persons in the Class," he's opened it up to anyone in California who downloaded Tinder and is now mad.
As for his legal claims, Warner alleges violations of the California False Advertising Act and the Business and Professions Code. As a result, he claims that he and the other potential Class members have "suffered injury" and "have lost money or property." He is suing for a restitution of funds "improperly obtained by [Tinder]" and statutory damages.
Warner's attorney, Todd M. Friedman, who practices in Beverly Hills, told Fusion: "Tinder advertises itself as a free dating website, and it was proceeding in that regard, until users started getting messages that they're running out of swipes and they need to pay money … The fact of the matter is, Tinder's still advertising as a free app. If you're gonna advertise yourself as a free app, then why are you charging people?"
When asked for its response, Tinder’s parent company, IAC, told Fusion in a statement: “We normally don’t comment on pending litigation, but on this one we just can’t help ourselves: it’s downright silly.”
This post has been updated to include comments from IAC received after publication.
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.