Is Tinder guilty of age discrimination? The California Court of Appeals thinks they may be, so the court recently reinstated a lawsuit that has accused the dating app of discriminating against users on the basis of age.
According to the suit, Tinder’s practice of charging people over 30 $19.99 while charging younger users $14.99 or $9.99, respectively, is definitely discrimination. The initial case was brought on behalf of Allan Candelore, who said the pricing levels clearly violated California’s anti-discrimination legislation.
Tinder fought back in court, saying the price levels were because younger users didn’t have the same disposable income as older users. The court reported Tinder executives arguing: “During our testing we’ve learned, not surprisingly, that younger users are just as excited about Tinder Plus, but are more budget constrained, and need a lower price range to pull the trigger…”
At that point, the court sided with Tinder, saying their argument made legal sense and dismissing the discrimination suit. But Candelore’s representatives appealed, and a Court of Appeals has now sided with them, reversing the earlier decision, so the case may proceed.
In explaining its decision, the court said: “Because nothing in the complaint suggests there is a strong public policy that justifies the alleged discriminatory pricing, the trial court erred… Accordingly, we swipe left, and reverse…”
Despite the cleverly-worded decision, that doesn’t mean Tinder will get the eventual win. They could still lose the case in court. Now, at least, they will have their day.
Meanwhile, it’s easy to wonder what consumers will have to say about this issue. Will Tinder users be more reluctant to sign up for Tinder’s higher-level pay option, because they now perceive them as unfair? It’s tough to say at this point, but one thing is clear. Neither side, in this case, has delivered a truly convincing narrative, so either side could end up winning both in court and in the court of public opinion.
At some point, Tinder will be asked to extrapolate on why they charge more for older users. Many already feel there are different reasons than just the younger users’ inability to pay more than about ten bucks a month. Some speculate that older people will pay more for the opportunity to meet younger people, and that, to make that happen, Tinder needs to have more younger people using the app.
While that is not likely to be a position Tinder would admit to, they may end up in a situation where they need to tacitly and carefully work around similar accusations as this case plays out. It will be interesting to observe what happens next.