Santa Monica among handful of California cities included in lawsuit
By Chad Winthrop
Santa Monica and a handful of California cities have settled a civil lawsuit with Match.com alleging the company charged customers for automatic renewal without their express consent.
On July 7, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced that Match Group Inc., a global online dating service company, will pay $2 million to settle a civil lawsuit alleging the company charged customers for automatic renewal without their express consent.
“Consumers should be protected from practices that deceptively and unfairly force them to pay for something they don’t want,” District Attorney Gascón said. “We want companies to thrive, but they should be mindful to not abuse technology tools to violate consumer protections.”
Under a judgment negotiated with the company, entered July in the Santa Cruz County Superior Court and signed by Judge Timothy Volkmann, Match Group was additionally ordered to comply with the following terms:
- Clearly and conspicuously disclose its automatic renewal terms;
- Get consumers’ affirmative consent to the terms through a checkbox before charging for an automatic renewal or continuous service;
- Email consumers a confirmation of the transaction after they pay, which clearly includes the automatic renewal terms;
- Allow consumers to easily cancel the service, including online;
- Avoid using misleading online sales information and payment mechanisms.
Under the terms of the settle, the company did not admit wrongdoing and has already taken steps to correct its violations, according to prosecutors.
Federal and state law requires businesses to provide consumers with clear disclosure of their automatic renewal terms and conditions before charging them for the service. The disclosure must include instruction for the cancelation of the automatic renewal subscription. The law further requires businesses to obtain consent from consumers prior to automatic renewal and provide confirmation of the transaction.
This case is among the investigations conducted by the California Automatic Renewal Task Force (CART). The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office formed CART to address rising consumer complaints against online automatic renewal subscriptions. Members of CART include the District Attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara counties, and the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office.