Dodgy female profiles that were use to lure consumers to dating web sites have been exposed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission after an investigation of web sites owned by Jetplace Pty Ltd.
The operator of the socialising and dating website www.redhotpie.com.au, has been ordered by the Federal Court to disclose that Jetplace created and operated well over a thousand of its own profiles on its redhotpie website.
The 1371 profiles created by Jetplace purported to represent actual users of the website who were resident in cities and towns across Australia. The profiles appeared in the ‘Uncut’ section of the website.
Jetplace used some of its own profiles to send flirts or customised messages to some registered users of the website. The Jetplace profiles also appeared in searches carried out by visitors to, or registered users of, the website.
Following legal action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission the Federal Court has now declared that Jetplace contravened the Trade Practices Act 1974 by engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct and by representing that membership of the website had performance characteristics and benefits that it did not have.
The court further declared that Jetplace directors, Maxwell James McGuire and Mark Semaan, were aware of, and party to, the offending conduct.
ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said: “The ACCC will not hesitate to take swift and decisive action where consumers are exposed to misleading tactics by website operators. Website operators such as Jetplace must accept that there is significant potential for many vulnerable people to be attracted to socialising and dating websites and that the website operators have a legal responsibility under the Trade Practices Act to ensure the information they place on the website is accurate.”
He added: “Had this conduct occurred after the introduction of the new Australian Consumer Law, it is likely the ACCC would have sought from the court civil pecuniary penalties. Such penalties can be up to $1.1 million for companies and $220,000 for individuals.”