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'We Swipe Left' On Tinder's 'Discriminatory' Pricing, Court Says

A California judge said "we swipe left, and reverse" a lower court's ruling.
Leon Neal
Getty Images
A California judge said "we swipe left, and reverse" a lower court's ruling.

A California appeals court has found the dating app Tinder's pricing model to be discriminatory and says the company must stop charging older customers more for its paid premium service.

Tinder has argued that the pricing difference on its Tinder Plus service was based on market research finding "customers age 30 and younger have less capacity to pay for premium services" and they "need a lower price to pull the trigger."

But Judge Brian Currey, writing for California's 2nd District Court of Appeal earlier this week, wrote that Tinder "employs an arbitrary, class-based, generalization about older users' incomes as a basis for charging them more than younger users."

As NPR's Sam Sanders reported in 2015, the company charged users age 30 and older $19.99 per month for Tinder Plus, while people under 30 only had to pay $9.99 or $14.99. (The court says it's unclear whether 30-year-olds were part of the first or second group, but says it's irrelevant.)

The paid service offers benefits that are not part of the normal free service.

The lawsuit was first filed in February 2016.

Tinder user Allan Candelore brought the lawsuit, saying the pricing difference violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a 1959 California law that "secures equal access to public accommodations and prohibits discrimination by business establishments," as the court describes it. The lawsuit also claimed Tinder violated the Unfair Competition Law which the court said "prohibits, and provides civil remedies for, 'unfair competition,' which includes 'any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice.' "

The appellate court largely agreed: "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. Some older consumers will be 'more budget constrained' and less willing to pay than some in the younger group," the judge wrote.

The dating app popularized the notions of swiping right and left on potential partners — right for yes, left for no. The appeals court decision, which was a reversal of a lower court's decision to dismiss the case, was written in a manner befitting the app.

"Accordingly, we swipe left, and reverse."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.