Call 'em Match.CON!!
By HELEN KENNEDY -- DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Match.com is being accused of sending ringers on fake dates with lonely hearts to keep them from dumping the service.
A racketeering lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Nov. 10 alleges the wildly popular online dating service secretly employs people as "date bait" to send bogus enticing E-mails and to go on as many as 100 dates a month - or three a day - to keep customers ponying up.
"Hiding behind Match.com's portrait of online success is a very big, very dirty secret," the lawsuit alleges. "Not everyone you meet and date through Match.com is just another Match.com member."
Company spokeswoman Kristin Kelly said Match.com "absolutely does not" employ anyone to tantalize customers, called the lawsuit "completely without merit" and said it would be fought "vigorously."
She said a survey showing 12% of last year's marriages resulted from meeting online is proof the service works and said membership is up 19% over last year, showing the company doesn't need to resort to tricks.
The lawsuit, filed by thirtysomething customer Matthew Evans, hopes to become a class action on behalf of Match.com's 15 million members and the 1million subscribers who pay $30 for one month or $80 for six.
The service has 850,000 members in New York City.
According to his lawyers, Evans went on many dates with dark-haired, buxom twentysomething Autumn Marzec, who allegedly confessed to him that she was a company ringer.
Evans alleges that Match.com employees identify customers whose subscriptions are about to lapse and send them "winks" - a way users show interest in each other - and scripted E-mails.
The suit alleges snooping employees read customers' E-mails to each other and use the information "to make themselves appear to be the 'perfect match' to that person."
"The paid Match.com employee then goes on a date with the subscriber, gives the deceptive appearance of having a lot in common with the subscriber [due in part to having read his or her E-mails] with the intent of luring the subscriber into re-signing with Match.com," the suit alleges.
Americans spent $245.2 million on online dating in the first half of 2005, up 7.6% from 2004.