PositiveSingles.com, a dating website that markets itself as the top community for "online dating and support" for individuals who have sexually transmitted diseases, has received a court verdict to pay $16.5 million in damages. A California jury decided the company's owner had in fact committed fraud against its customers under the falsely advertised premise of confidentiality, among other charges.
On October 24 a Santa Clara County Superior Court jury handed down the bench verdict against PositiveSingles' parent company for fraud, oppression, and malice, determining that SuccessfulMatch.com was guilty of violating consumer laws, according to a press release from the plaintiff's legal counsel.
While the final orders have not been issued and are currently being drafted, a spokesperson for Green & Noblin law firm told VICE News that the verdict included the monetary award was determined, with $1.5 million in economic damages and the remaining $15 million in punitive damages.
The suit accused SuccessfulMatch of "false and misleading" statements on its websites, namely that each one "does not disclose, sell or rent any personally identifiable information to any third-party organizations." It notes that PositiveSingles also prominently advertised itself as a "100 percent confidential and comfortable community."
The parent company has numerous niche sites in its portfolio including AIDSDate, Herpesinmouth, GothicMatch, NudistFriends, and PositivelyKinky.
The case brought against the STD dating site - which began operations in 2001 and claims to have 15,000 "daily active members" - accused the company of misleading the plaintiff and other members with its promise of privacy, confidentiality, and not sharing information with outside parties. It turns out, according to the suit, that PositiveSingles had not been keeping its members data confidential and was in fact inputting information through one centralized database, alongside thousands of other sites, and sharing the information with third parties through that streamlined location.
This verdict stems from a 2011 class action suit by the plaintiff "John Doe" against PositiveSingles and SuccessfulMatch, the parent company that has numerous niche sites in its portfolio including AIDSDate, Herpesinmouth, GothicMatch, NudistFriends, and PositivelyKinky.
When users register for PositiveSingles, they provide personal information, including their STD status. According to the plaintiff, he read the Terms of Service which did say information could be provided to other SuccessfulMatch Network sites, an important clause that he felt few users were reading.
Specifically, the law firm's spokesperson said that one of the key points of the suit was that the very different look of the websites that members' information was being farmed out, and was accessible, compared to the one they had originally signed up with at PositiveSingles.
According to Green & Noblin, an injunction against the site is also expected to be issued by the court that would bar the illegal practices and to declare three separate Terms of Service provisions unconscionable. One of these provisions said the site was sharing user information, but the judge found issue with the fact that there was no definition as to how the information was being shared with the more than 1,000 other websites owned by third parties. Green & Noblin's spokesperson explained that the judge said she intended to issue the order, which is still being drafted.
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