eHarmony Shells Out $1.28 Million To Settle Auto-Renewal Lawsuit

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2018 is off to a rough start for eHarmony. Shortly after one of the company’s advertisements was banned in the UK for being “misleading” comes the news that the popular dating website has taken another hit - one that will cost them more than $2 million.

Last month, eHarmony settled a consumer protection lawsuit in California, agreeing to pay $1.28 million to four counties - Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Napa - and the city of Santa Monica.

The complaint against eHarmony alleged that the company failed to sufficiently explain its subscription fee policy, leading to unexpected charges for consumers. The complaint further alleged that eHarmony did not provide a contract explaining the service, nor did it explain the cancellation procedure as required by law. 

eHarmony cooperated with the ensuing investigation and “agreed to make changes to their website and provide proper notices,” the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said. The company will also pay an additional $1 million in separate restitution to users who were unknowingly enrolled into a subscription to the website between March 10, 2012 and Dec. 16, 2016. Eligible recipients will be sent notices of any monetary recovery (though if you qualify and you’re hoping for a windfall, be forewarned that the payouts will only average around $30 per customer).

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Deng cautioned that, as online subscription services become increasingly prevalent, it’s imperative that sellers be more transparent about their products and consumers be more mindful about their decisions.

“Companies need to make sure that their customers know exactly what they are paying for, what their rights are, and how often they will be charged,” Deng said. “Sometimes the details aren’t very noticeable so the consumer doesn’t know what they’re getting into. Read the fine print, and know what you’re buying.” Deng said.

“And companies that choose to offer auto-renewal,” she added, “they need to make the terms very obvious. They need to be sure that terms of cancellation are clear, conspicuous, and noticeable to consumers.”

eHarmony released a statement acknowledging the lawsuit, and though the company did not admit fault, it promised to review and update its practices.

“Without any admission, we have cooperated with the government, which has previously launched similar investigations against a long list of e-commerce companies, and have chosen to settle to avoid the distraction and expense of protracted litigation,” said Ronald N. Sarian, vice president and general counsel for eHarmony. “In collaboration with the government, eHarmony has implemented a new industry standard when disclosing terms in order to make the user experience even better.”

This should serve as a reminder for all singles to be more conscious about what they are agreeing to on eHarmony and other dating services. Don’t skip the fine print.