California told Tinder to stop discriminating against 30-somethings

Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
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Tinder Plus is a premium service introduced by online-dating app Tinder in March 2015. It grants users unlimited swipes and lets them do things like change their location, undo their most recent swipe, and “Super Like” multiple potential matches a day. In the US, Tinder priced Tinder Plus at $9.99 a month for users younger than 30, and $19.99 a month for those 30 and up. The stated rationale was that older users could afford to pay more. Left unstated: They might also be a little more desperate.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people over 30 super-disliked this policy. On Jan. 29, a California appellate court agreed, ruling that (pdf) Tinder Plus used a discriminatory pricing model that made an “arbitrary, class-based generalization” about the incomes of older users. The decision reversed an earlier ruling from a trial court in Los Angeles, which found that Tinder’s age-delineated pricing wasn’t discriminatory because it was based on market research that showed younger users were “more budget constrained.”

“No matter what Tinder’s market research may have shown about the younger users’ relative income and willingness to pay for the service, as a group, as compared to the older cohort, some individuals will not fit the mold,” the appellate court wrote. “Some older consumers will be ‘more budget constrained’ and less willing to pay than some in the younger group… Accordingly, we swipe left, and reverse.”

Tinder wasn’t immediately available to comment.

The case was brought by Allan Candelore on behalf of himself and other California consumers who were over 30 years old when they subscribed to Tinder Plus. In response to his complaint, Tinder said its pricing model treated youth as a “reasonable proxy for economic disadvantage,” according to court filings, adding that it is “self-evident that people under 30 face financial challenges.” Incidentally, when Tinder launched Tinder Plus in 2015, then-CEO Sean Rad was himself under 30.

It’s unclear how much business Tinder Plus drives for Tinder, which is owned by publicly traded Match Group and has been a standout success in the latter’s portfolio. Match doesn’t break out data on Tinder Plus, but after the company’s fourth-quarter 2016 results, CEO Greg Blatt told investors the feature increased engagement. “Tinder Plus users, subscribers, tend to be the most engaged customers, obviously, so they are on the product the longest etc.,” he said. “That’s good for the product.”