Wednesday, March 17, 2010 Settles Deceptive Advertising Class Action, Still Faces Privacy Class Action, & Dealing with Congressional Investigation to Boot has agreed to pay up to $9.5 million to users who say they were duped into paying a $15 subscription fee in response to the site's deceptive advertising scheme.

Founded way back in 1995 -- the pre-historic Web 1.0 era -- was one of the first social networking sites. Today, it's perhaps best known for its cheese-tastic ads -- usually involving old yearbook pictures and a little quip along the lines of "She married him?!"

But it was a different marketing tactic that led a California man to file a class action lawsuit against the site for false advertising:  after he signed up for a free membership with the site (which really doesn't let users take advantage of many -- if any -- interesting online tools or networking functions), sent him messages along the lines of "Your classmate is looking for you!" Or, "See who viewed your profile!"

But getting this juicy stuff (is it your junior high crush?! is it that jerk who stood you up on prom night?!) required an upgrade to a paid membership. The problem was, after he forked over the payment, he learned no one was looking for him after all.

Talk about kicking the lonely guy when he's down.

In November of 2008, Anthony Michaels filed a lawsuit against for deceptive advertising, and according to, now the site (although it denies wrongdoing) has agreed to pay up to $9.5 million in refunds to users who upgraded to a paid membership after seeing those kinds of advertisements.  The proposed settlement awaits court approval. has long faced criticism for its marketing and advertising, and for years has faced consumer complaints.

Oh, but that's not all. and its parent company, United Online, (along with other retailers) have also been dealing with a congressional investigation stemming from questionable marketing tactics and complaints from people who found mysterious charges on their credit card invoices.

But wait.  There's more.

Earlier this month, two named plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against for recent changes to its privacy policy that resulted in user profile information going public.  The plaintiffs sued for violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (well, the attorneys accidentally referred to it as the Electronic Data Privacy Act), violations of the state consumer protection act, breach of contract, unjust enrichment; it also asks for an injunction.

I guess we can chalk this up as yet another reason so many of us just want to forget our high school years.

1 comment:

  1. By the way . . . members who happen upon this post shouldn't get too excited . . . the payout for each affected user is something like $3 cash or $2 credit toward future membership. So, you can't go car shopping on the potential recovery, but maybe you'll get enough for a nice hamburger.

    OK, probably not a nice hamburger. But maybe a fast-food hamburger. Sans fries.