A Texas court has approved a settlement in a lawsuit accusing dating site True.com of continuing to charge customers who attempted to closed their accounts.
Plaintiff Thomas Wong filed the suit in 2007, accusing the site of charging him three separate times after he canceled his subscription. The suit described a misleading system billed Auto-Subscription that reactivated users' accounts without their knowledge or consent.
According to the complaint, True regularly sent e-mails to users who had canceled their subscriptions, informing them that other members were trying to contact them. The lawsuit alleged that these members didn't actually exist, and that consumers who responded to the e-mail unwittingly reactivated their membership, allowing True to begin charging them again.
Consumers who chose to dispute the charges with their credit card companies were also in a bind, as True's terms of agreement provide that users agree not to dispute any authorized charge by True.com or its authorized agents.
The lawsuit also said that True sneaked snuck extra charges onto consumers' bills without informing them. Users were allegedly charged $2.99 per month for access to a live chat feature, and $0.99 per month for enrollment in the coaching center, which True.com says provides ongoing feedback, advice and counsel to its subscribers, helping guide them through every stage of their relationships. The site's terms of agreement said that consumers would be automatically billed for the services unless they canceled them, even though they were described as separate product offerings from the website itself.
The suit alleged counts of breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and violation of Texas consumer statutes, and was heard in Dallas County, Texas, where the site is based. A preliminary settlement was reached in March, and the court gave its final approval this week.
ConsumerAffairs.com has heard from a number of consumers whose cards were charged after they closed their accounts. Lisa of Sarasota, FL writes:
I told them no matter what I want to cancel in Sept. 2009 and they still charge to my Mastercard account-$49.99, $6.00 and $3.99. I reported to my Bank and they still won't give me my money back. This is one of those scam companies and I want my money back now.
Malisa of Brooklyn, NY was charged for services she didn't know she was receiving:
I did an online cancellation of the services offered by True.com. However, I observed that my credit card was charged two weeks later. I called the number provided with the credit card payment; at this time I was told that the online cancellation was insufficient for a cancellation. I was told that buried in the initial contract it is stated that cancellation have to be done via phone but it is not mentioned when you cancel online. After much discussion I was refunded the two payment they too, one for $2.99 and the other for $49.99. However, the next day there was another charge for $0.99. When I called about the other charge, I was told that the default setting included with the services provided by True.com caused this additional charge but that I could have been changed it.
True, which has millions of members, bills itself a safer, smarter, more satisfying dating site. One of the site's main bragging points is its criminal screening process; True compares member names against a criminal database and turns away felons, sex offenders, and even married people who represent themselves as single. The site says it reports these individuals to federal authorities.
Not just True
True isn't the only site that finds it difficult to completely do away with ex-members. In July, a New York man filed suitagainst Match.com, claiming that the website shows current members photos of people who closed their accounts, thwarting what initially appear to be promising romantic prospects.
Under the terms of the settlement, True will pay $1.5 million into a fund, from which refunds will be paid to eligible consumers. Affected True users will be eligible to receive either $35 (if they were charged for one additional month) or $50 (if they were charged for two or more months). An ill-defined larger group will be given a free 45-day membership to the website. In all, at least 150,000 consumers will be eligible for compensation, and plaintiffs' attorney Jonathan Tycko said that number is expected to grow. True denied any wrongdoing, claiming that it was settling to prevent protracted litigation and to return our focus on bringing people together.
Affected consumers who wish to take advantage of the settlement must act quickly; the deadline for submitting claim forms is Oct. 21. More information is available at www.trueclassaction.com.