In one fell swipe, a California state appeals court found Tinder guilty of age discrimination for charging people 30 and older more money for its premium service, Tinder Plus.
On Monday the court ruled in favor of Allan Candelore, who claimed that charging older users $19.99 a month, compared with $9.99 a month for younger people, violated two California laws: the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Unfair Competition Law.
Although the dating app is free for everyone, users who pay for the premium subscription are entitled to a few bonus features. For example, Tinder Plus members can undo any swipe and use unlimited likes, instead of the 100 likes allowed every 12 hours. (Or for those slightly more desperate, subscribers can use five extra “superlikes” per day to let people know they’re really interested.)
Tinder co-founder Sean Rad defended the pricing model to TechCrunch Disrupt, saying people under 30 years old typically have less money to spend. Therefore, the lower price is necessary to increase the number of young people who will pay for the premium service. Tinder spokeswoman Rosette Pambakian hit the same point in an interview with NPR when Tinder Plus was launched in 2015. “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 to pull the trigger,” she said.
Tinder maintains that it’s not unusual for companies to offer products at different prices determined by age. Amazon and Apple Music offer discounted subscriptions for students who register with an educational email address, for instance. But while students may tend to be younger, lots of people return to school later in life.
In addition to age-based pricing, Tinder also varies its Plus subscription fees based upon location. Users in developing countries pay as little as $2.99 a month, while users in the U.S. clearly pay more.
But the appeals court wasn’t buying Tinder’s argument. It argued that all users can struggle financially; therefore, older people shouldn’t be charged more.
“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,” Judge William F. Highberger wrote. “Some older consumers will be ‘more budget constrained’ and less willing to pay than some in the younger group. We conclude the discriminatory pricing model … employs an arbitrary, class-based generalization about older users’ incomes as a basis for charging them more than younger users.”
While Tinder might be the place where young people congregate, Highberger showed why older people shouldn’t be left out of the mix. In the ruling, the nearly 70-year-old judge couldn’t help making the obvious joke: “Because nothing in the complaint suggests there is a strong public policy that justifies the alleged discriminatory pricing, the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrer. Accordingly, we swipe left and reverse.” Superlike.