Breaking hearts might not be illegal, but deceiving consumers is.
The Federal Trade Commission sued an online dating company on Wednesday for setting up fake profiles to trick users into paying for memberships.
JDI Dating, an England-based company, agreed to settle the charges by changing its practices and promising to pay $616,165 in refunds. The company owns 18 websites, including cupidswand.com, flirtcrowd.com, and findmelove.com.
The sites let users sign up for free. According to the FTC, as soon as the users set up their profiles, they would start receiving flirty messages. In order to respond, the users had to upgrade to a paid membership for $10 to $30 per month.
The messages were from fake, computer-generated profiles that were made to look real, according to the government suit. A small "v" and "c" logo (for "Virtual Cupid") was the only indication that the profiles didn't belong to real people, the FTC said.
The agency also accused the company of tricking consumers by failing to tell them that their subscriptions would be automatically renewed. Even canceling a subscription was too complicated, the FTC said.
JDI Dating didn't respond to a request to comment.