Users of fake dating websites to receive over 9 million euros as financial compensation
Consumers that have been misled by fake profiles on dating websites will receive financial compensation. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) and the company behind these websites, The Right Link B.V, have agreed on a commitment. This commitment covers approximately 37,000 individuals who have been harmed. The company has reserved over 9 million euros for these compensations.
Consumers paid a lot of money in order to get in touch with the individuals that were presented in these profiles. However, this was impossible because the websites used fake profiles. Consumers were not sufficiently informed about this practice. They did not know that they were paying to chat with ‘chat operators’. The dating websites have made a commitment to ACM to inform users more clearly about their methods.
Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: “Users of these websites were tempted by fake profiles to hold long conversations, not with the person of their choice, but with a chat operator. Meetings in real life never happened. Since users have been misled, it is only fair that they are financially compensated. From now on, these websites will inform their users clearly about what they offer. Doing so is important for consumer confidence in the online world.”
Chatting with an operator but never a date
The business model of these fake dating sites consists of having consumers send as many messages as possible to the individuals of their choice. However, these individuals do not exist, since fake profiles are used. The chat conversations were held with ‘chat operators’ who pretended to be the individuals in these fake profiles. They tempted users to hold long conversations (often adult conversations). Since you had to pay for each message, consumers lost a lot of money (in some cases even thousands of euros) without ever getting what they had expected: an actual date or real interaction with the individual of their choice.
Harmed consumers will be financially compensated
Consumers who used the following websites between July 1, 2016 and April 17, 2018 will be financially compensated. The period is restricted to the period in which ACM conducted its investigation into the operations of these 17 websites:
Read this ConsuWijzer article (in Dutch) to find out how affected consumers are able to get financial compensation.
The commitment is not without obligations
ACM launched the investigation into dating websites using fake profiles in part because of reports in Dutch national media, and reports filed with ACM’s consumer information portal ConsuWijzer. As part of this investigation, ACM also conducted dawn raids at companies running these websites. ACM has various regulatory tools at its disposal to take enforcement action against companies that violate the rules. In this case, the company behind the fake dating websites made a commitment, which ACM has accepted because it will offer consumers the best outcome. As part of this commitment, consumers will be compensated for the financial harm they have suffered as a result of this deception. Going forward, ACM and the company behind these websites have made arrangements to stop the deception, not just in the Netherlands, but also in other European countries where this company is active with similar websites. Furthermore, this case makes it clear to other providers of similar services what the rules are that they need to comply with. ACM believes it is essential that consumers are able to have confidence in the online world.
Commitments made to ACM are not without obligations. ACM will constantly check whether companies that have made these commitments comply with them. If they do not, ACM still has the power to impose a fine.
Commitment of The Right Link B.V. (in Dutch)