Lawsuit Against Classmates.com May Raise Honesty Standards in Digital Ads

Meet Anthony Michaels, who filed a lawsuit against Classmates.com for false advertising.    

For any of you who have signed up for Classmates.com, you know exactly what Anthony Michaels is alleging against the original online social networking company.  Those enticing emails suggesting that friends are trying to get a hold of you are not what they appear.  It’s a tug at your nostalgia to get you to upgrade to a premium Gold membership that requires money.  It’s a deceptive ploy.

I fell for this “tug” a year ago. Signed up for a premium Gold membership, hoping to reconnect with my high school friends.  While I immediately realized no one was really trying to contact me, I remained a premium member and set up a profile to make it easy for friends to find me.  As it turned out, more old friends found me on Facebook than Classmates.com.  So, after a year, I tried to cancel.  That was no easy task. I eventually figured it out after a lot of investment of time.  The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth. 

If a large brand like Classmates.com continues to use shady advertising practices, what’s the true bar within the industry?  Is “Tactless” the bar?   

I understand the desire to convert, optimize and convert.  However, that should be done within the context of ethical responsibility.  Build trust with your customers.  Be transparent.  

Those of us in the online marketing space need to loudly advocate ethical responsibility even while optimizing our marketing campaigns.  

Anthony Michaels’ lawsuit, filed in San Diego County court on October 30, says there are hundreds of thousands of Anthony Michaels around the country who were similarly duped. The lawsuit asks the court to force the company to refund millions in subscription dollars and fine the company for deceptive advertising.

According to Wired, this is not the first legal action accusing a prominent online company of deception. In 2003, Bonzi Software settled a class action lawsuit that alleged its banner ads (which mimicked Windows operating system warnings) were deceptive. And in January, Member Source Media agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint about the company’s spam messages that promised consumers, “Congratulations. You’ve won an iPod video player.”

Stop already!  This lawsuit could raise the standards in honesty in online advertising.  That would be a big step in the right direction.

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5 Comments on “Lawsuit Against Classmates.com May Raise Honesty Standards in Digital Ads”

  1. Kendall
    November 19, 2008 at 8:40 am #

    Right on point, John, nice post!

  2. Eve
    November 20, 2008 at 10:44 am #

    If nothing else, this lawsuit might deter other online companies from pursuing a deceptive strategy simply because the PR can be bad … really, really bad. Long-term viability in this space will require self-policing high ethical standards … but we can help quash even short-term viability of unethical organizations by being vocal about this kind of abuse. Thanks for the discussion! Nice post!

  3. gil
    November 25, 2008 at 6:21 pm #

    how do get a phone number for classmates they hit my credit card without permission

  4. Tom Allen
    February 3, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    I too had a bad experience… I was sent an email from classmates.com saying someone wanted to contact me. So I went in to this free account and they required a credit card to see who it was. I figured what can it hurt. Then after paying it the contacted person was not real and was a scam. I tried calling their phone number with no luck then on 5 repeated attempts emailed them telling them to remove my private information and to remove me entirely from their system. They failed to comply now looking for some legal actions to take against them for not acknowledging my privacy to remove all my info. The damage is my private information is still being displayed in their system and they will not comply to my request to remove my private information. They also scammed me out of $15 which is not really the issue, my issue is my information. They are using my personal information for their gain. This site is a scam and should be looked in to by the FBI.

  5. Josee
    February 26, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    Got scammed too with classmates.com, I’m currently trying to squeeze them with proof from a rep as the gold membership was a temporary one…I’m in Canada and I’m looking for any lawsuit I could join to get back at them, they’ve been charging my credit card since August 2008 and can’t get them to stop! Of course beside the fact that “my best friend from high school was looking for me” message was a 3 year old one…really those guys who work there have no shame to scam people like that…I’d love to bump into one of them….

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