Is it Legal for Tinder to Charge Older Users More in California?
Tinder is a popular dating app. It is advertised as a great way for people to meet each other for friendship or romance.
Millions of people use the free version to meet potential mates. According to Tinder’s website, the dating app has made over 55 billion matches for people who are straight or members of the LGBTQIA community.
The app is easy to use. If you like a potential “match,” you swipe right. Otherwise, you swipe left on a match if you are not interested.
In addition to Tinder’s free app, they offer a paid service called Tinder Plus. The Tinder Plus version allows you to “undo” left swipes, among other things.
According to an NPR article, Tinder Plus costs $9.99 per month for users under 30 years old. For users 30 years and older, the cost is $19.99 per month. Tinder stated that the prices were based on a combination of factors.
Tinder Faces Lawsuit for Age Discrimination
A California Tinder user sued the company under the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The California law prohibits discrimination by business establishments. It also ensures equal access to public accommodations.
Tinder argued that its pricing was based on research that indicated people under 30 years of age did not have the same capacity to pay for services as older individuals. Therefore, the company needed to provide a lower price to entice younger users to purchase the paid service.
The California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District Division Three disagreed with Tinder’s argument. Instead, the court found that the company used an “arbitrary, class-based generalization” to determine a price based on age. As a result, the court directed Tinder to stop charging users above 30 years of age more money for the premium service.
What Does the Unruh Civil Rights Act Say?
It is generally against the law to charge seniors more money for the same service provided to younger users at a lower rate.
The Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on a person’s:
- National origin
- Marital status
- Genetic information
- Sexual orientation
- Medical condition
The Act applies to all businesses within the state, including companies operating for a profit and non-profit companies. Therefore, a business can be held liable for damages if it violates the law.
The law was enacted in 1959. It continues to be one of the state’s best laws for protecting people against civil rights violations by businesses. In addition to the protected classes listed above, the courts have ruled that the Unruh Act also protects similarly situated individuals from business discrimination.
What Are the Damages Available for an Unruh Civil Rights Act Violation?
If you sue for a violation under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, you could receive:
- Special damages
- General damages
- An amount between $4,000 and three times the special and general damages
- Attorneys’ fees
The damages are paid for each violation of the Act. The court may also order the company to stop violating the act.
What Types of Businesses Are Covered by the Unruh Civil Rights Act?
The Unruh Act applies to numerous types of businesses, including but not limited to:
- Public agencies
- Retail establishments
- Beauty salons and barbershops
- Housing accommodations
Other examples of Unruh Act violations include charging a fee based on a person’s race. Doctors refusing to treat an HIV-positive patient could violate the Unruh Act. A hotel denying a same-sex couple a room would violate the Unruh Act.
How Can Businesses Justify Giving Discounts to Seniors?
It seems that if the Unruh Act prohibits charging higher amounts for goods or services based on age, it would also prohibit giving discounts or free admission based on age. However, courts have found that senior discounts are legal.
The discounts are based on many seniors having fixed incomes. These discounts are not the arbitrary discrimination that the Act is intended to prevent.
What Should You Do if You Believe a Business Violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act?
Document the violation with as much evidence as possible. For example, if you are being charged a higher price for the same service, obtain copies of your contract, bills, and other written evidence regarding your account, charges, and payments. Also, gather any evidence showing that the company charges a lower amount to another class of persons.
Contact an attorney to discuss your options for filing an Unruh Act claim. An attorney will explain your legal rights and the steps necessary to file a lawsuit. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, there could be other legal options for pursuing a civil rights violation in federal court and state court.
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