May 24, 2022

Tinder algorithm charging users more based on age


Tinder users could face higher charges because of their age when using the dating app’s premium service, a Which? investigation has found.

Research from the consumer watchdog showed that users over 30 were being charged more for their use of Tinder Plus, with those aged 30 to 49 likely to pay 48% more (an average difference of £24) for a 12-month subscription, while over-50s paid 46% (£23.19) more.

Although it is very occasionally justifiable under UK law to offer age-based price variations for the same product or service – such as discounts for pensioners or students – it must be shown that there is a legitimate basis to do so. Which? said it was unclear in this case why over-30s were paying more.

The investigation’s findings have been reported to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

“Our research uncovered concerning evidence that people using Tinder could unknowingly be facing higher charges because of their age,” said Which? director of policy and advocacy Rocio Concha. “This suggests unfair price discrimination and potentially unlawful processing of personal data.

“We are calling for the EHRC and the ICO to investigate this issue further,” she said. “If regulators decide that Tinder’s personalised pricing is breaking the law then the dating app giant must face strong action.”

Through an analysis of Tinder’s privacy policy, as well as its general terms of use, Which? found that users were never made aware of these differences in price.

Instead, Tinder refers only to processing individuals’ data to “deliver and improve” its services, and to “help keep [users] safe, and provide [users] with advertising that may be of interest”.

This lack of awareness suggests there was no explicit consent given to Tinder to use people’s personal data to determine what prices it could charge, making it a possible breach of UK data protection law as well.

Which? said it believes that if a business uses personal data to set the prices it charges, it must be transparent about what data is used. If the company is not comfortable publicly defending the use of personal data for pricing, it should not use that data.

Responding to the investigation, Tinder admitted that older people do have to pay more in some countries, although Which? found this was not made clear to the app’s users. Tinder denied using any other personal characteristics of its users to set prices.

“Tinder is free to use and the vast majority of our members enjoy our app without upgrading to the paid experience,” a Tinder spokesperson said. “However, we do offer a variety of subscription options to help our members stand out and match with new people more efficiently. Tinder operates a global business and, in some geographies, we offer discounted subscriptions to younger members.

“In addition, we frequently offer promotional rates – which can vary based on factors like location or length of subscription. No other demographic information is considered in our pricing structure.

“It is categorically untrue that our pricing structure discriminates in any way by sexual preference,” they said. “Any reporting or inference is patently false and outrageous.”

Evidence

Although Which? approached Tinder twice in December 2021 after finding that information about people’s sexual orientation could be being used to set prices, Tinder has only now provided evidence that this is not the case.

According to the original Which? analysis, Tinder appeared to be hiking prices for young gay and lesbian users aged 18-29.

Having initially chosen not to provide further information, Tinder has since revealed that it offers discounts to users aged 28 and under in the UK, and claimed that by including 29-year-olds in the analysis, “the results would be skewed to make it appear that LGBTQAI+ members paid more based upon orientation, when in fact it was based upon age”.

A spokesperson for the EHRC said: “As Britain’s equality regulator it is our job to protect, uphold and enforce equality laws. We take reports of discrimination very seriously.

“This report of potential discrimination by Tinder is concerning,” they said. “We will consider these findings by Which? and respond in due course.”

Tinder has faced allegations of price discrimination before. In January 2019, it settled a lawsuit in California when it agreed to stop charging users different prices on the basis of their age.

In 2020, Australian consumer group Choice reported that over-30s in the country were, on average, quoted prices more than double that of younger users.



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