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Tinder, Hinge, other dating apps turn users into 'addicts,' suit says

A proposed class-action lawsuit claims dating apps have "altered social reality" by making hopeful daters "addicts."
Tinder, Hinge, other dating apps turn users into 'addicts,' suit says
Posted at 9:11 PM, Feb 20, 2024

For some single people, it's just the routine: swipe, scroll through photos, swipe, match, swipe, swipe and — you guessed it — swipe again. 

The never-ending dating app cycle can often make users feel stuck, either in their path to a partner or in the very app itself. But a lawsuit claims the latter part — sorry, you probably can't sue for being single just yet — is by design, keeping users hooked to generate more profit for the apps while violating consumer and business laws in the process.

The proposed class-action suit, aptly filed on Valentine's Day in a California U.S. federal court, claims Match Group, Inc. intentionally created its apps like Tinder and Hinge with "addictive, game-like design features, which lock users into a perpetual pay-to-play loop that prioritizes corporate profits over its marketing promises and customers' relationship goals." 

This hidden strategy, the 58-page complaint states, amounts to consumer-protection violations, false advertising, unfair competition, deceptive trade practices, negligence and more.

"The undisclosed defective design is intended to erode users' ability to disengage from the Platforms and turn users into addicts who will purchase ever-more expensive subscriptions to unlock unlimited and other 'special' features, which are not designed to deliver on Match's marketing promises but instead to further addict and forever entrench users in the app," the complaint states.

One of those "marketing promises" the six plaintiffs, hailing from four different states, point to is Hinge's slogan: "Designed to be Deleted." Instead, the suit claims the apps are "designed to be addictive," with "dopamine-manipulating" features that transform "users into gamblers" searching for psychological rewards.

Examples of this include push notifications that "prey on users' fear of missing out on any potential matches" and incentive rewards that "punish users from disengaging and reward compulsive users," the suit states. 

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In response, Match said the lawsuit has "zero merit" and is "ridiculous."

"Our business model is not based on advertising or engagement metrics," a company statement said. "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." 

Match Group owns and operates some of the best-known dating apps around the world, including Tinder, Hinge, Match.com, PlentyOfFish, OkCupid and The League. 

Though many of its apps are free to download, they often offer premium features or subscriptions that they claim will increase users' visibility to others, thereby maximizing one's likelihood of getting a match. 

The company's 2023 revenue was $3.365 billion, a 5.51% year-over-year increase according to Statistica, but the amount of people paying to use its services has fallen — a drop that plunged its stock prices in November, though efforts to reach younger daters have somewhat helped it climb back up.

Pew Research Center data shows about 30% of U.S. adults have used a dating site or app, though younger people report a much higher percentage. It also notes more than a third of online dating users have paid to use a platform, and those who have paid reported more positive experiences than those who have never paid.


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