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Dating Affiliate Class Action Lawsuit

SparkNetworks USA, the company that runs ChristianMingle, JDate, BlackSingles and several other niche dating sites has been served with a class-action lawsuit. According to the complaint, the company is liable for advertisements that were in violation of California Spam Laws and promoted by its affiliates.

The lawsuit claims that consumers received numerous misleading emails that came from fake people and generic names like “Christian Dating” and misrepresented the advertiser and hid it’s origin as interpreted by a recent California ruling.

“As consumers, we unfortunately find ourselves bombarded with a lot of unwanted spam,” said Brian Kabateck, an attorney in the case. “But the blatantly deceptive tactics the complaint alleges were employed by Spark Networks and its affiliates are simply deplorable. This has to stop.”

The attorneys in the lawsuit are Brian Kabetck, Timothy J. Walton and Daniel Balsam. We were unable to reach SparkNetworks for comment.

About Pace Lattin

Pace Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pace Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

14 comments

  1. Dan Balsam strikes again. This guy is the online equivalent of an ambulance chaser. He’s getting greedy since no one can deliver email anymore.

    • No… People just can’t advertise in false & deceptive spam, even if it’s sent by their affiliates. Unless they want to pay liquidated damages.

  2. While I hate lawsuits in general, still I can only say “It is about time”.

    As someone who catches, blocks and makes public Blog-, Email-, and currently tons of Link spammer for link-juice, I believe it is about time someone starts going for the root cause of the problem.

    It has no meaning to go for the individual small affiliate spammers. They simply pop up gain the next day.

    They can stop this, and clean up the affiliate business, ONLY by making it REALLY bad business for any advertiser or product owner to allow sales gained from false advertising or Spam. Or even associating with such creations. Just like they would take responsibility for any sales-person directly on their pay-roll.

    Currently many advertisers have public policies that tries to distance them from and disallow bad behavior by affiliates, but they still take the sales gained from using Spam, false advertising, and other bad techniques, and quietly look the other way.

    California is only doing what the new Federal rules already make mandatory. The company that in the end benefits from Spam and false advertising is accountable.

    After that has been make clear, the bad affiliates will be dropped in short order. Plus, if an advertiser don’t want to police their affiliates (or work through a network that clearly does so for them), they will drop out of having affiliates at all.

    • Deecee, you’re an idiot. cry me a river, hit unsubscribe, then run your mouth. What little do you know is DAN OPTS IN THEN SCREAMS SPAM. He settles for so cheap it makes no sense to fight him. You’re a moron.

      • Aah.. Anyone that emotional about anti-spam measures must be a spammer in hiding. :-)

        Why would I unsubscribe? You don’t like opposing opinions?

        If Dan (actually the plaintiffs represented) really did do opt-in, and then complained when receiving emails, there would be no case at all. Because if the emails arrived after an opt-in, laws would have been followed and the company could prove it. Case closed. Such is apparently not the case here. :-)

        I can guarantee you that the Email, Blog, and Link spam we catch and report is NOT arriving after any form of opt-in. They are entirely unsolicited, from people running such stupid tools as ScrapeBlogs and ScrapeBox, and promoting all kinds of affiliate products from vendors with strict anti-spammer policies.

        I just a few hours ago reported another batch of such “promoters”. As they were all promoting links into a major site, which has strict anti-spam policies, I expect their accounts and web-pages to be down some time Monday morning. :-)

        • Y’know, spammers love to claim that I’ve deliberately opted in. The problem is, not ONE of them has ever been able to prove it. I’ve had spammers claim I opted in from an IP address in Washington when I was actually in Cambodia. I’ve had spammers produce opt-in records with wrong zip codes; if I really opted in, I would have done it correctly. My personal favorite is the time a spammer claimed I opted in literally at date & time when I was taking the Bar exam.

          Besides, as noted, I’m not the plaintiff here. And my clients didn’t opt in either. As noted in the complaint, my clients WOULD not have opted into Christian or black dating websites, because they’re not Christian and not black.

          • Dan, I agree with you..
            That is a typical excuse. The “after-the-fact” claim of “opt-in”.

            The tons of spammers I catch, right now especially link-spammers trying to trick Google, are pure scammers. So are the Black-Hat tools they use to do it. The ScrapeBlogs, ScrapeBox, xRumer type tools, which by their design and extreme use of proxies to hide their identify cannot claim to be anything else.

            Good luck with it. Winning could have ramifications way beyond this particular case, with a precedence set for who is the ultimate responsible and beneficiary of Spam.

    • Precisely. Nicely said. California law (and federal law too) expressly make advertisers liable, and when advertisers get sued, hopefully they\’ll crack down on their affiliates.

  3. “But the blatantly deceptive tactics the complaint alleges were employed by Spark Networks and its affiliates are simply deplorable. This has to stop.”

    Yes, sending an email about Christian Dating, and placing that in the real name field is deplorable. That’s just deceptive and worse than Hitler.

    What’s next? A newsletter being labeled “Newsletter” in the subject field? This is a slippery slope.

    It is my sincere hope they lose the case, and somebody files a Vexation Litigant against Dan and his cronies for pretending to be public crusaders, yet using the most flimsy and greedy excuses to do so.

    • My clients and I are doing precisely what the California Legislature wanted us to do. We didn’t write the law. We’re merely exercising our statutory rights.

  4. Aah, but you conveniently skipped past the real issue in the lawsuit. Spam, and misrepresentation of both advertiser and product. No longer legal.

    From Yahoo’s Finance page about the suit:

    Some of the emails for ChristianMingle.com and BlackSingles.com listed a woman’s name as the sender, while others used generic from names like “Christian Dating,” “Christian Dating Partner,” or “Christian Singles” that misrepresent the advertiser. Many of the spam emails were sent using domain names that made it difficult to determine their origin. Other domain names were registered to fake companies or individuals with bogus addresses.

    According to the complaint, Spark Networks USA LLC, based in Beverly Hills, is liable for advertising in unlawful spams sent by its third-party marketing affiliates that violated Business & Professions Code § 17529.5.

    The reason for the law-suit is Spam. UCE. Also of course why Dan Balsam & Co are in it, because it can cost Spark et al up to $1000 PER SPAM EMAIL received by a plaintiff.

    The real plaintiff names are listed in the suit.

    When Spark Networks are held liable for the behavior of the affiliates pushing its products, I would venture that you WILL see a change of the industry.

  5. Dan Balsam…stfu….just because a website is a Christian or Black site doesn’t mean they didn’t sign up…maybe a white guy was looking for a black girl…or vice versa…for a lawyer that was a weak ass argument…sucks this is the only way you can make money…why don’t you use your lawyer “skills” and do something that actually helps california instead of clogging up the court systems with your nonsense.

  6. What’s next? A newsletter being labeled “Newsletter” in the subject field? This is a slippery slope.
    Good luck with it. Winning could have ramifications way beyond this particular case, with a precedence set for who is the ultimate responsible and beneficiary of Spam.

  7. The lawsuit is about “misleading emails”? The emails are not misleading. You may not want the emails, but it’s very obvious what the emails are about, and thus not misleading. Just another lawyer looking to make a quick buck.

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