update Over a thousand profiles on dating site RedHotPie (www.redhotpie.com.au) were created by website operator Jetplace, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
(Screenshot by Suzanne Tindal/ZDNet Australia)
Jetplace used 1371 fake profiles to send "flirts" or messages to users of the dating site.
The ACCC had taken the company to court for its actions. The court ruled that creating those profiles contravened the Trade Practices Act 1974, because the profiles were misleading and helped pretend that the website had benefits that didn't exist.
"The ACCC will not hesitate to take swift and decisive action where consumers are exposed to misleading tactics by website operators," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said in a statement.
The directors were ruled to have known about the fake profiles. Samuel said the company was lucky that the problems had occurred before the advent of new Consumer Law, which allows the ACCC to impose heavy penalties for misleading consumers — up to $1.1 million for companies and $222,000 for individuals.
Jetplace had to notify users of its conduct, take part in a law compliance program and pay the ACCC's court costs.
Jetplace director Max McGuire said the company had cooperated with the ACCC on the matter.
He said that the profiles had been created as part of a user security suite to assist in the detection of illegal activities on the RedHotPie site. The profiles were for 'self policing' and had acted like administrative 'security cameras', McGuire continued. Only a fraction of the 1371 profiles had been active at any one time and the profiles had been voluntarily deactivated in November 2008 following the ACCC's concerns, according to the director.
Updated on 22 July 2010, 4:35pm: added in Jetplace's comments.