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US Appeals Court Declares Pricing Model For Tinder Plus Service Discriminatory

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A California appeals court ruled against Tinder in a case that determined that the online dating app is discriminating older users.

Tinder Plus is the app's premium service that gives users more features such as backtracking, unlimited swiping, changing locations, and more super likes. Its pricing model requires people over 30 to pay higher costs for the premium service.

Tinder Costs More For Older Users

A case was brought against Tinder by Allan Candelore for charging older users more for Tinder Plus. Tinder charges $9.99 per month for people under the age of 30. For those over the age of 30, it charges $19.99 per month. The lawsuit says that based on the pricing, Tinder went against the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Unfair Competition Law.

In the ruling, a three-judge panel found that Tinder violates both laws. It makes assumptions of the income of older users to determine a pricing structure that charges them a higher price than younger users. The previous decision was reversed by the Superior Court of Los Angeles County in a decision written by Judge Brian Currey. He even made a Tinder joke while issuing the ruling. 

"Because nothing in the complaint suggests there is a strong public policy that justifies the alleged discriminatory pricing, the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrer. Accordingly, we swipe left, and reverse," said Currey in the decision.

Tinder's Defense

Tinder started its practice of tiered pricing in 2015. Tinder founder Sean Rad defended the pricing model at TechCrunch Disrupt 2015.

"Our intent is to provide a discount for our younger users ... It's not about necessarily optimizing for the dollars we bring in. It's about optimizing for the number of people we can bring in," said Rad at the event. He goes on to mention how the pricing structure may change depending on the country where the service is launched.

Judge Currey's ruling against Tinder says that its excuse for the pricing model doesn't fly. It is making assumptions about the income of older users. Currey says that every user will not fit this mold that they are placing.

Tinder pretty much openly goes against California's Unruh Civil Rights Act. The law prohibits businesses from discriminating based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation. The Unfair Competition Act outlawed unfair, unlawful, or fraudulent business practices.

Prices were changed even more when Tinder introduced an even higher tier in premium service called Tinder Gold. This new subscription allowed users to buy more features in the app. On top of the Tinder Plus rate, users would have to pay an extra $4.99 to get features such as seeing who likes the user before they swipe on the person.

Tinder has a couple of options based on the ruling by the judges. It will either have to start charging everyone a uniform rate, or more likely, it will bend over backward to preserve the current pricing structure. This has been lucrative for the company.

UPDATE 02/01: The story previously stated that the ruling was made by Judge William Highberger, it was actually made by a three-judge panel with the decision being written by Judge Brian Currey.

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