Tinder has been charging users older than 30 over 65% more than than other users, according to research from Mozilla and Consumers International.
The two organizations released a 40-page report about Tinder's pricing practices, noting that the company was sued in California last year for $24 million due to its age-based pricing practices.
Mozilla and Consumers International researchers said that in their examination of Tinder pricing on five continents, they discovered some people are charged up to five times more for the exact same service. In the Netherlands, prices ranged from $4.45 to $25.95; in the U.S., they ranged from $4.99 to $26.99, according to the study.
The researchers found that on average across six different countries, 30-49 year-olds were charged 65.3% more than 18-29 year-olds. According to the report, in five of the six countries surveyed, people aged 30 and above were given substantially higher price quotes. The issue was particularly pointed in countries like the Netherlands, South Korea, and India.
The study included a survey of 598 people, nearly all of whom had concern with the practice and 83% of whom wanted a way to opt out of personalized pricing.
"Personalized pricing isn't inherently harmful if done fairly, responsibly, and transparently. But our research reveals Tinder's algorithm is unfair, irresponsible, and opaque," Ashley Boyd, vice president of advocacy at Mozilla, said.
"Opaque AI systems like Tinder's are common across the marketplace, and only growing more so. We need a broad approach to reforming these systems, from stronger consumer protections to greater transparency for civil society and government."
The two organizations ran the study from May 2021 to September 2021 in New Zealand, the US, the Netherlands, South Korea, India, and Brazil.
Participants in each country signed up for Tinder Plus, put in their location and sex, and then shared their prices with researchers. The price swings within single countries varied widely, and the researchers called the personalized pricing scheme "incredibly opaque."
People in in the Netherlands were given 31 different price points, while those in South Korea and New Zealand saw 26 and 25 different prices.
"Consumers must be given greater agency over the use and dissemination of their personal data collected for personalized pricing purposes, while measures must be introduced to uphold data protections for all," said Helena Leurent, director general at Consumers International.
"Consumer associations, civil society organizations, and enforcement and supervisory bodies should be given meaningful access to the algorithms that determine personalized pricing in order to establish if the practice is fair."
When contacted for comment, a Tinder spokesperson directed ZDNet to a statement released on Sunday explaining why the company charges younger people less.
The company said that when it launched its first subscription tier, it "wanted to offer younger members a lower price point than the standard price, to make Tinder affordable for those in school or early in their careers."
"Age and market were the only factors taken into account to determine pricing. Members 28 years and younger were able to purchase discounted subscriptions, and people in India, for instance, would see different prices from members in the US. Sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or any other demographic characteristic have never informed, influenced, or determined pricing at Tinder. And most importantly, it never will," the company claimed.
"Last year we discontinued offering lower prices for younger members in the US, Australia, and more recently in the UK. We recently announced that we will be eliminating age-based pricing for all of our members in all markets by the end of Q2 this year."
The California lawsuit -- Allison v. Tinder Inc. -- was initially settled for $24 million. It disbursed $50 packages of "Super Likes" to 240,000 members in the lawsuit. Those who submitted claims in the case also had the option of receiving $25 in cash, 25 Super Likes, or a free one-month subscription. As part of the settlement they also agreed to stop charging older people more in California.
But in August 2021, the Ninth Circuit said the $24 million deal "undervalued the strength of class members' claims" and struck down the district court ruling that approved the settlement.