Elderly Texans were subjected to “high pressure sales tactics” until they agreed to sign a membership agreement with a matchmaking company, according to a new lawsuit filed by the state Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Matchmaker Matchmaker, a dating service costing $3,000 to $10,000, and its CEO Harvey Luna targeted the elderly as well as the disabled and veterans in search of prospective love interests. “Matchmaker defendants utilize a company which ‘mines’ online dating service databases and sells ‘leads’ and customer contact information,” according to the complaint.
Employees of the defendant cold-called consumers to join the fee-based dating service, and those that showed interest were then encouraged to visit the office for an in-person consultation. Company employees were trained in “dubious and aggressive” recruitment practices, including the use of false information to entice consumers into signing up for a membership, Abbott said. They included a claim that Matchmaker had a database of “thousands” of potential dates and that it had conducted psychological exams on all potential members. No such evaluations were conducted.
Salespeople also requested financial and credit information from consumers, ostensibly to make a better match. But the information was really used to tweak the amount charged to the consumer, according to the complaint. A total of 92 complaints about the company were received by the state AG’s office; the Better Business Bureau received 68.
In one affidavit accompanying the suit, a 72-year-old woman said she arrived at the Matchmaker office at 2:30 in the afternoon and didn’t leave until it was dark. She was charged $6,495 after Luna got down on one knee and begged for her membership. A promise to send her a match within the week never materialized. Another affidavit from a 65-year-old woman stated that Luna placed his hands on her shoulders and told her he wouldn’t let her leave until she signed up. Consumers who refused to sign a contract were verbally abused, the AG said.
The complaint alleged violations of Texas’ deceptive trade practices law. The state indicated that it was seeking in excess of $100,000 in penalties, consumer redress, and attorneys’ fees and costs, although the amount could rise above $1 million.
To read the complaint in State v. Luna, click here.
To read the TRO against the defendants, click here.
Why it matters: A state court judge granted the AG’s motion for a temporary restraining order against the defendants, halting the operation and freezing its assets.