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The defendants offered a free plan that allowed users to set up a profile with personal information and photos.
As soon as a new user set up a free profile, he or she began to receive messages that appeared to be from other members living nearby, expressing romantic interest or a desire to meet.
The settlement order prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting material facts about any product or service and, from failing to disclose clearly to potential members that they will receive communications from virtual profiles who are not real people.
The order requires that, before obtaining consumers’ billing information for a product with a negative-option feature, the defendants must clearly disclose the name of the seller or provider, a product description and its cost, the length of any trial period, the fact that charges will continue unless the consumer cancels, the deadline for canceling, and the mechanism to stop recurring charges.
The messages were almost always from fake, computer-generated profiles – “Virtual Cupids” – created by the defendants, with photos and information designed to closely mimic the profiles of real people.
Stipulated orders have the force of law when signed by the District Court judge.The order also bars the defendants from using consumers’ billing information to obtain payment without their informed consent.The injunction also bars the defendants from misrepresenting refund and cancellation policies, and failing to disclose clearly the terms of a negative option plan – before a consumer consents to pay.“JDI Dating used fake profiles to make people think they were hearing from real love interests and to trick them into upgrading to paid memberships,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.“Adding insult to injury, users were charged automatically to renew their subscriptions – often without their consent.” According to a complaint filed by the FTC, JDI Dating and William Mark Thomas operate a worldwide dating service via 18 websites, including cupidswand.com, and