Academic journal article The Journal of High Technology Law

New-Age Discrimination: Determining Whether Tinder Plus' Price Is Right

Academic journal article The Journal of High Technology Law

New-Age Discrimination: Determining Whether Tinder Plus' Price Is Right

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

The rise of mobile applications ("apps") has infiltrated the lives of people all around the world and as a result, it has become one of the fastest growing categories of the global market. (1) As of July 2015, phone-tech company, Android, (2) has the largest app market allowing users to choose between 1.6 million apps, while Apple's App Store remained in a close second offering 1.5 million apps. (3) Apps are software programs, running on mobile devices that are designed to perform specific tasks such as streaming music, providing news updates, and checking the weather. (4) Prospective creators and designers are often attracted to apps' cost effectiveness and simplicity, which has resulted in a growing popularity in app development. (5)

Modern day app development can be a highly rewarding and dynamic business venture with the capability of thriving for little start-up cost. (6) Even though barriers in the app business are few and low, there are still the same potential financial and legal pitfalls that are prevalent for any start-up business. (7) The most prominent legal issues in app development are entity formation, confidentiality, intellectual property ownership and protection, terms of use, and privacy. (8) While apps have historically been developed for informative and entertainment purposes, mobile online dating apps such as Tinder, Clover, and Hinge, have taken the app market by storm as digital dating has evolved into a "hand-held activity." (9) Amongst all others of its kind, Tinder has been at the forefront of the mobile-dating surge. (10)

Tinder is a free, location based app that brings convenience to the conventional dating scene. (11) Along with reaching the milestone of being one of the first successful apps of its kind, Tinder has also brought attention to a legal issue not particularly prevalent in the app development market--price discrimination on the basis of age. (12) On April 29, 2014, Tinder was confronted with a class action suit in California Federal Court alleging that their mobile app's pricing policy discriminates on the basis of age. (13) Two years later, the presiding judge dismissed the class action suit on the basis that the plaintiff was unable to evidence "how he was harmed by the allegation." (14) Interestingly enough, in issuing his decision, the Judge stated that it was not made on the merits of the case, which bids the question, what would have happened had the plaintiff provided sufficient evidence of harm? (15)

This Note will analyze both state and federal laws preventing discriminatory sales practices from a historical perspective and will advise on the issue of whether California's legal precedent should apply to Tinder's newly implemented pricing policy in the case, Manapol v. Tinder, (16) Section II of this note will discuss the evolution of social networking technology and illustrate how virtual social networks have become functionalized within our culture. (17) Additionally, this section will introduce the historical reasoning behind the prevention of discriminatory practices in various other fields while also highlighting discrimination on the basis of age using relevant case law and statutory regulations. (18) Section III will describe the facts of Manapol, and will connect the issue to past discriminatory practices and explore our culture's rising concerns related to the pricing of smartphone apps and services. (19)

Section IV will compare and contrast Manapol's argument regarding Tinder's new pricing policy with case law, in an effort to determine whether this particular pricing policy is analogous to policies that have been previously outlawed. (20) Additionally, this Note will address the contention that even though this form technology may appear unnecessary and far removed from the Unruh Civil Rights Act's ("UCRA") legislative purpose, the rights and opportunities for consumers to enjoy products and services must remain consistent as we progress to a technologically advanced society. …

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