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The Courts Software Technology

Tinder Must Stop Charging Its Older Users More For 'Plus' Features, Court Rules (arstechnica.com) 201

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The online dating service Tinder must change one of its key monetization strategies. A Los Angeles appellate court reversed a lower court's decision on Monday and told Tinder to stop charging older users more money per month for its "Tinder Plus" service. The proposed class-action lawsuit, filed by Tinder user Allan Candelore in February 2016, alleged that Tinder engaged in illegal age discrimination by charging its 30-and-older users $19.99 per month for Tinder Plus while offering younger users either $9.99 or $14.99 monthly subscription rates for the same services. Tinder Plus includes app perks such as additional "super-likes" which are more likely to attract a dater's response. In an initial trial, Tinder's defense argued that the pricing was based on market testing that showed a market-driven reason to offer lower prices to "budget constrained" users.

"Nothing in the [original] complaint suggests there is a strong public policy that justifies the alleged discriminatory pricing," Judge Brian Currey wrote in the appeal court's 3-0 ruling. "Accordingly, we swipe left" -- a joke based on the app's popular "swipe to reject" gesture -- and reverse." That reversal hinges largely on California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which was passed in 1959 and protects "equal access to public accommodations and prohibits discrimination by business establishments." The ruling noted that some business-led discrimination is allowed by California state law, but it agreed with Candelore's argument that Tinder's age-targeted pricing is not.

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Tinder Must Stop Charging Its Older Users More For 'Plus' Features, Court Rules

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  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2018 @11:40PM (#56045273) Journal

    I can imagine one person having a brain fart and doing something stupid. One person doesn't decide the pricing and change it at a whom, though. This had to be multiple executives agreeing this pricing discrimination sounded like a good idea.

    Who the heck in running Tinder? I wonder how many of them have graduated high school, because this is a pretty obvious screw up. I notice the various bios of their CEO don't list any other jobs he's ever had. Looks a bit like this may be his first job.

    • by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Thursday February 01, 2018 @12:03AM (#56045345) Homepage Journal

      Anything is possible as a business, until law enforcement decides you're acting in a criminal manner, or someone sues you for infringing upon their freedoms. Discrimination by age is such an infringement. Most companies are too small for people to try and sue them though.
       
      Uber's whole business model hinges on the idea that non-commercially licenced drivers can operate a taxi service in any city, irregardless of the city/jurisdiction's rules. Then the local taxi group sues Uber after a number of months and then they reach some sort of settlement typically.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 01, 2018 @12:33AM (#56045443)

      What about senior discounts at restaurants, how is that allowed? Honestly curious.

      • by sg_oneill ( 159032 ) on Thursday February 01, 2018 @03:36AM (#56045875)

        Its a reasonable question in this context.

        The principle reason for "Senior discounts" is that elderly folks are often poorer (Not always, theres plenty of rich old folk), and have likely been of a "service to the community" in the sense of having lived through conscription wartimes, and so on. So therefore its reasonable to offer a discount to the elderly, in the same way some businesses might offer a discount to the disable or unemployed.

        Tinder in fact argued that in this case users under 30 where more likely to be "budget constrained" than a user over 30 and thus it justifed the policy. The supreme court considered this in detail and noted that the difference is that a 25 and a 35 both have a capacity to earn more money, however a retired senior citizen or a child does not have that capacity and thus the underlying generalizations are different, particularly as the same legislature that enables the anti discrimination laws also limits the ability of the very elderly or the very young to work and thus it carves out its own excemptions there to permit discounts for seniors and children.

        • Sorry, but older folks being poorer is a relic of the past. Today, the boomer generation is the "old folks" (which are arguably the richest senior citizens ever, and most likely going to remain it) while "generation internship" is what you find among the younger workforce.

        • The supreme court considered this in detail and noted that the difference is that a 25 and a 35 both have a capacity to earn more money,

          Not to pick nits, but notice that this was a Los Angeles appellate court ruling on a California law. So the supreme court wasn't involved and if it gets involved, it will just be the CA supreme court so it wouldn't matter to the rest of the country.

        • I have been a victem of the war on drugs, so can I get discounts now? How am I a victim? I have to pay for jails.

        • I don't know. I think this seems ripe for a challenge. If I can charge seniors less, why can't I charge them more. I imagine nobody is bothering to sue because not too many restaurants have as much scale as Tinder. If somebody does sue, I imagine that they will win. However, restaurants will just structure the discount differently (something that Tinder can't do). Many restaurants offer "early bird" specials. Who can eat dinner at 4pm on a Tuesday? Realistically only seniors. (Although if you want
      • by dfm3 ( 830843 )
        Senior discounts are typically a very soft policy, and I've never actually seen one strictly enforced (a reasonable request refused or ID checked, for example). It's the same with military discounts, or college student discounts. I'm in my early 30's yet I've been given a "senior" discount many times for a variety of reasons: because I was nice to a cashier, showed patience while they dealt with a belligerent customer ahead of me, commented on a cashier's haircut, because I was neighbors with the cashier, o
    • by diamondmagic ( 877411 ) on Thursday February 01, 2018 @12:59AM (#56045515) Homepage

      Why do you act as if it's a stupid idea? The biggest correlation with wealth, more than anything else, is how old you are; and that's a fact that doesn't change by which generation you're in, family upbringing, or anything else.

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        I'd think that there other big correlations with wealth. Being born into a wealthy family. Living in the wealthy part of town are two that seem to correlate with wealth. I see a lot of people who look like they should be retired, working shit jobs, McDonalds, Walmart, the Grocery store, all having a good percentage of old people working at close to minimum wage jobs. The stupid kids can get labouring jobs that pay 50-70+% above minimum wage, at least while their bodies last.

        • I'd think that there other big correlations with wealth. Being born into a wealthy family.

          Ok, so your change request as a Business Analyst at Tinder, is that you're going to modify the form, so that where it currently asks for users' DoB, you're going to replace that with "How much money does your family have?" because we're changing the strategy that we're going to use to optimize the market-segmentation use case.

    • Except instead of explicitly charging older people a higher rate based on an age cutoff, they simply offer a discount for students and children. The correlation is very close to an age-based cutoff, except you don't get in trouble for age discrimination. Kinda like how insurance companies can't charge more based on race, but they can charge more if you live in a certain zip code which just so happens to correlate strongly with race.

      So what they were trying to do wasn't stupid. They just implemented it
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        With students and especially children, society has decided that it's okay to favour them because students should concentrate more on study than earning and because bringing up children is highly beneficial for society but very expensive for the parent.

        In some places the same logic applies to older people. They might have a fixed income (pension), and in fact some governments give them extra benefits like the UK's winter fuel allowance (because so many were freezing to death).

        So the real question here is if

    • This had to be multiple executives

      You have a well over inflated view of how much "executives" have an impact in the day to day operation of the business. Sure one person didn't do this, but I'll bet you a mars bar it was a small relatively lowly sales team.

    • I have very little knowledge of Tinder and my perception is that it is an application of finding casual sex partners, mostly.

      If that is not the reason to immediately realize how antisocial the whole idea is, I do not know what is.

      Following un-ethical behavior of salesmen is just a logical continuation.

      • by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday February 01, 2018 @08:34AM (#56046515)

        AFAIK, it is for finding casual sex partners. I don't know that it's inherently anti-social, if anything, it's at least matching men and women with a shared intent of sexual involvement and potentially reduces some of the chances for sexual harassment which happens when one party wants sex but uses poor cues or inappropriate settings to seek it.

        It doesn't surprise me that they would charge older people more. My expectation is that older men prefer younger women, have less access to younger women in their real lives, and would thus be inclined to overwhelm a service like Tinder. Tinder lives and dies by its ability to attract young women to the platform, and these young women are probably generally interested in partners in their peer group, not 40-something men.

        If Tinder is flooded with older men, it will lose appeal to younger women and probably fail as a platform as women leave it due to too few desired partner matches. So it makes sense that Tinder wants to charge older people more for access. This will reduce the number of men on their platform and compensate them somewhat for whatever marginal loss in female users it causes.

        I'm not sure any of this is unfair to older users. In real life, age discrimination against sexual partners happens. A 45 year old man simply is less desirable to 25 year old women.

        • by xvan ( 2935999 )
          You can filter the viable matches by ages, so the price has no impact on "fewer" desirable candidates for women.
          The differences is that paid users have unlimited requests, and the less appealing men need those request to make a match, because of the 80/20 rule https://medium.com/@worstonlin... [medium.com]
        • This problem is easily resolved by personal preferences: just set a default setting that the person wants to see others only in his age range.

          • by swb ( 14022 )

            I don't think that relying on honestly reported ages won't result in much success.

            • Wouldn't they need to rely on honestly reported ages or validate age in some way in order to enforce their price discrimination?
        • Personally, if I see an attractive woman significantly less than half my age, I tend to fantasize hooking her up with my son. I may be atypical in this.

    • This is like the old argument over ladies' night pricing at clubs and bars. The lower rates are intended to equalize the gender ratio, not 'discriminate against men'.

      • by Wulf2k ( 4703573 )

        "The lower rates are intended to equalize the gender ratio, not 'discriminate against men'."

        Do you honestly not see that as the same thing?

        They want to discriminate against men to equalize the gender ratio.

        I'm not even saying it's a bad thing, but that's exactly what they're doing.

    • by devman ( 1163205 )
      I honestly don't see why this is a problem given how many business have senior/children discounts and all. How are these things materially different. I guess this will be appealed.
  • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2018 @11:41PM (#56045279)
    Tinder sucks. No way to know more about a person than pictures and brief one-liner. Also easy enough to create throwaway accounts. OKCupid and similar free dating services keep the bar higher than a gallery of random mugshots.
    • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2018 @11:49PM (#56045309) Homepage Journal
      I thought Tinder was just for meeting people for sex. I only use Grindr, so I have no idea.
      • I thought Tinder was just for meeting people for sex. I only use Grindr, so I have no idea.

        They're both for helping people make fire. Gather some Tinder, apply friction with Grindr and -- poof -- fire. The real action is at the next step using Blazer, though it's a bit overrun with stoners, for some reason. Swipers beware.

    • Tinder sucks. No way to know more about a person than pictures and brief one-liner.

      That's probably part of the success. If you think someone is interesting beyond a picture and one-line-description, you have to TALK. Like normal people, you know? But as I understand tinder, that happens only with people who find your picture at least mildly ok, too. So it's basically old-school flirting, but lowering that entry bar of that embarrassing "first step"

      Also easy enough to create throwaway accounts. OKCupid and similar free dating services keep the bar higher than a gallery of random mugshots.

      But will a random mugshot be successful?

  • So, that means... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Thursday February 01, 2018 @12:06AM (#56045357)
    So, that means that as someone who doesn't get "senior discounts" because I'm below a certain age, I'm being discriminated against? This cuts both ways.
    • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

      Gonna be a tough sell if kids are also discounted (a la movie tickets).

    • Senior discounts are okay because they are "retired persons" discounts that happen to be based on a rough heuristic. And it works cause it's hard for me to imagine a 66-year-old who works complaining, or a jury being sympathetic to a retired 40-year-old suing to save $1.

  • You understood it all wrong, guys.

    They're not charging more for the older users, they're charging less for the younger users! Big difference!

  • against age discrimination.
  • So, what does this mean for the whole life insurance industry then? Their whole business model is charging people more as they get older.
  • Really stupid.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Thursday February 01, 2018 @01:09AM (#56045551) Journal

    As a Libertarian, I believe that businesses should be free to make any pricing decisions they want, even if they piss off some of their customers. As a businessman, I'm amazed that Tinder's management can be so fucking stupid.

    -jcr

  • by dohzer ( 867770 ) on Thursday February 01, 2018 @01:32AM (#56045609) Homepage

    I should also have to pay less if I'm only targeting the young women!

  • I used to have a bank account that was free until I turned 30. Then it started to cost an arm and leg. I wonder if I might sue them just for the "joy" of it.
  • I have to sue my local cinema and zoo, they also charge younger and older customers less (under 12 and over 65) also my railway is even worse, they let customers under 12 years use it for free.

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