Match.com, a unit of IAC/Interactive Corp., is accused in a federal lawsuit of goading members into renewing their subscriptions through bogus romantic e-mails sent out by company employees.
In some instances, the suit contends, people on the Match payroll even went on sham dates with subscribers as a marketing ploy. This is a grossly fraudulent practice that Match.com is engaged in, said H. Scott Leviant, a lawyer at Los Angeles law firm Arias, Ozzello & Gignac LLP, which brought the suit.
Match spokeswoman Kristin Kelly said the company does not employ people to go on dates with subscribers or to send members misleading e-mails professing romantic interest.
Yahoo spokeswoman Rochelle Adams said the company had no comment on the lawsuit. US consumers spent $245.2 million on online personals and dating services in the first half of 2005, up 7.6% from a year earlier, according to the Online Publishers Association.
The Match lawsuit was filed by plaintiff Matthew Evans, who contends he went out with a woman he met through the site who turned out to be a date bait working for the company.
The lawsuit also claims that Match violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisation Act, a law best known for being used in prosecuting organised crime.
The Yahoo suit was filed by Robert Anthony, of Florida. The suit, accuses the Yahoo of breach of contract, fraud and unfair trade practices.