Tinder Is in Trouble Over Its ‘Unfair’ User Terms

TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2014 - Day 3
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Tinder Co-Founder and CEO Sean Rad speaks onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt at Pier 48 on September 10, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)
Photograph by Steve Jennings — Getty Images

Tinder’s terms and conditions are illegal under Norwegian and EU consumer and privacy law, the Norwegian Consumer Council said Thursday in a complaint to the country’s consumer ombudsman.

According to the council, the dating app is breaking rules with terms that grant the app sweeping ownership rights and control over users’ data, let it change its terms without notifying users, and allow it to delete users’ accounts without justification.

The organization is also irked at the fact that users apparently can’t delete their own accounts if they want. What’s more, the consumer council is complaining about the fact that Tinder has a minimum age of just 13, when kids that young may not be qualified (under Norwegian law) to interpret the outfit’s terms and conditions.

In the complaint, the consumer council says Tinder may not have an established European operation, but it offers its service in the Norwegian language and it’s in the Norwegian app stores, so it is definitely serving that market.

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Speaking to Fortune, the organization’s director of digital policy, Finn Myrstad, noted that this was the council’s first formal complaint stemming from its “AppFail” campaign. The campaign is otherwise an awareness-raising exercise, trying to get Norwegian consumers to realise how many rights they sign away when they agree to apps’ terms and conditions.

“This is the first one, and the reason we’re doing it is we feel the terms in this service in particular are so bad that we need to take a stand,” Myrstad said.

The Tinder complaint follows a similar one made about a month ago in France. On that occasion, the consumer organization UFC-Que Choisir asked French data protection authority CNIL to investigate dating app Happn over its data-collection practices.

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Myrstad said the Norwegian complaint against Tinder was based on consumer law because it’s “quite a good instrument,” although the case is fundamentally about “privacy principles.”

There is plenty of precedent in Europe for consumer organizations attacking companies over data-protection problems in their terms and conditions. However, the Germans are getting even more creative—yesterday the German antitrust authority launched an investigation against Facebook (FB) over its “unfair” terms and conditions, on the premise that it is dominant in the social networking market.

If the Norwegian consumer ombudsman takes up the case, it may end up telling Tinder to change its terms and conditions or face fines—and if Tinder ignores the ombudsman, the case may end up in court.

Tinder said it makes every effort to comply with local and national regulations. “If and when authorities bring up larger privacy concerns, we always take them into consideration and, if applicable to our users, take steps to implement any necessary changes,” the firm said. “We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and strive to uphold a fair and trusted privacy policy.”

This article was updated to include Tinder’s statement.

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