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Tinder and Hinge dating apps are designed to addict users, lawsuit claims

How to avoid scammers on dating apps
How to avoid scammers on dating apps 04:06

There may be a reason so many hopeful singles on dating apps say they bank hours a day on the platforms swiping and scrolling without great results. 

Match Group-owned apps including Tinder and Hinge are designed to addict users and lock them "into a perpetual pay-to-play loop," according to a proposed class-action lawsuit, filed in California district court on Wednesday — Valentine's Day. 

The hidden algorithms that drive users' addiction to the apps run counter to the company's claims that its products are meant to help people find and establish offline relationships. Hinge markets itself as an app that's "designed to be deleted." 

Six plaintiffs allege the apps violate consumer protection and other laws, and are purposefully addictive, with Match "doing everything in its power to capture and sustain paying subscribers and keep them on-app." Users allegedly are also baited into continually upgrading their subscriptions and paying for bonus features that promise to give them a better shot at finding love, but in reality, only boost the company's bottom line. 

The apps are dopamine-manipulating products that gamify romance and dating and operate on a secret algorithm that encourages compulsive use, according to the suit. In other words, addiction increases earnings, the plaintiffs' claim. 

Match Group called the lawsuit "ridiculous," adding that it has "zero merit."

"Our business model is not based on advertising or engagement metrics. We actively strive to get people on dates every day and off our apps. Anyone who states anything else doesn't understand the purpose and mission of our entire industry," the company said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.

The apps derive 98% of their revenue directly from users who pay for subscriptions and virtual, in-app purchases, according to Match Group's most recent SEC filing. "Platform users are in search of off-app relationships, while Match is in the business of retaining subscribers. Fundamentally at odds, Match markets the platforms and their attendant subscription offerings misleadingly," the lawsuit reads. 

The plaintiffs also accuse the company of using so-called dark patterns — web design features meant to trick people into buying things or paying for services which they didn't intend to buy, a form of deception that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has cracked down on. In October, the FTC ordered communications provider Vonage to pay customers nearly $100 million in refunds for charging junk fees and using dark patterns that made it hard for subscribers to cancel their services.

The Match Group suit also comes as states target Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, for harming young users with addictive tech features on its social media apps, exacerbating mental health issues. 

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