Classmates.com — the website that promises to reunite people with their mullet-haired friends of youth — has agreed to pay out a $9.5 million settlement for a lawsuit dating back to 2008 accusing the company of “false advertising” through “deceptive” marketing emails.
The problems for Classmate.com began back in late 2007, when San Diego resident Anthony Michaels received an email from the social networking company informing him that his old classmates were trying to contact him.
In order to see who and why, Michaels had to upgrade to a “Gold Membership.” However, upon forking out to do so, he discovered that nobody was trying to get in touch; it was just a dubious marketing ploy from Classmates.com.
Michaels initiated a false advertising lawsuit against Classmates.com, which became a class action suit that anyone who suffered the same fate as the plaintiff could sign up for.
Fast forward to today: although Classmates.com has admitted no wrongdoing as part of the proposed settlement now waiting for U.S. District Court approval, it has agreed to pay out $3 for every Classmates.com member who upgraded to a “Gold Membership” on the site after receiving an email like Michael’s — estimated to be just over 3 million people.
Whether or not you sympathize with those that fell for Classmate.com’s oh-so-obvious tactics, it’s an interesting case in terms of wider web marketing. Dating sites are known to carry out similar practices, and this settlement may make offenders sit up and take note.
While this particular case may be settled, it’s not the end of Classmates.com’s legal troubles. The site is facing another lawsuit filed just this month, this time a class action privacy lawsuit that accuses Classmates.com of ignoring federal and state privacy laws by making user profiles public via a controversial opt-out scheme.