Tinder, an online dating service, priced its premium service at $10 for those under 30, and at $20 for those over 30 based on market research showing that the under 30 group generally had less income and were less willing to spend it on a dating service. This decision holds that Tinder’s pricing policy violates the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civ. Code 51) because it discriminates on the basis of an immutable characteristic, age. Even a true generalization about the class is an insufficient reason for disqualifying an individual to whom the generalization does not apply. Some exceptions to this rule apply when supported by strong public policy evidenced in other statutes, such as those dealing with minors and senior citizens. But no such public policy supports the 30-year-old cutoff that Tinder uses. It may be that most of those under 30 earn less than most of those over 30, but there are exceptions and they should be treated individually. Tinder could lawfully establish differential pricing based on the customer’s actual income, or it could adopt other measures to maximize its income that don’t involve age discrimination. But income maximization is not an adequate excuse for class-based discrimination that otherwise violates the Unruh Act. The case disagrees with and refuses to follow Javorsky v. Western Athletic Clubs, Inc. (2015) 242 Cal.App.4th 1386, which upheld an athletic club’s similar pricing policy. It distinguishes other age-based pricing cases on the ground they involved senior discounts or other categories backed by strong public policy.
California Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Three (Curry, J.); January 29, 2018; 2018 WL 580246.