SANTA MONICA—The oldest and largest dating websites in the United States, eHarmony, has agreed to alter its website and sales tactics to protect California consumers. The formerly based Santa Monica-based company will pay $1.2 million in fines and close to $1 million in refunds for customers for automatic credit card renewals. The judgment was filed at the Santa Cruz County Superior Court on Monday, January 8.

According to a press release Canyon News received from Constance Farrell, Public Information Officer for the city of Santa Monica, the terms are part of a final court judgment negotiated with a task force of local prosecutors that included the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office and the district attorneys of four Northern California counties of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Napa, and Shasta.

The task force discovered that eHarmony was charging its customers for renewals of memberships, without their express prior consent as required by law. The action alleged that eHarmony engaged in false advertising and violated California dating-service laws, by failing to give copies of contracts to consumers and disclosing their right to cancel.

“Automatic renewal is one of the critical areas in consumer protection today,” said Santa Monica Chief Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky, head of the Consumer Protection Division. “Consumers always have the right to know where their money is going.”

The judgment makes it mandatory for eHarmony to have full transparency with consumers about automatically renewing memberships. The company must now:

-Clearly and conspicuously disclose the renewal terms;

-Get consumers’ consent, through a separate check-box (or similar mechanism) that does not include other terms and conditions;

-Send a clear summary of the renewal terms after consumers pay; and

-Allow consumers to cancel easily.

eHarmony worked with the task force to reach the resolution and has taken steps to correct its violations.

“The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting consumers from unfair and unlawful business practices,” said City Attorney Lane Dilg. “This joint effort is an important victory to ensure that consumers will not be subject to recurring charges imposed without their clear approval and consent.”

Online “subscriptions” and other automatically recurring charges have become more common in the U.S. in recent years. For some companies, renewals transpire after the “free trial” period ends, which consumers have to cancel the service to prevent further charges.

Federal and state law requires businesses to make these auto-renewals clear to consumers, and to get their “express, affirmative consent” – before collecting any money. In August 2017, Santa Monica’s Consumer Protection Division obtained a $3.6 million settlement with Beachbody, one of the world’s largest sellers of exercise videos, supplements, and weight-loss programs. In that settlement, it was the first injunction in California to require the separate check-box to ensure that consumers are aware of consent before they are enrolled in auto-renewals.

“The separate check-box is the key,” said Radinsky. “Otherwise, it’s too confusing. Companies have too many ways to hide the auto-renewal terms.”  “eHarmony now will have one of the best online disclosure and consent pages in the business,” he added.

Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades assisted on the case.  The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Division promotes fairness through awareness and enforcement of the law. To report a consumer issue, go to or call (310) 458-8336.

“Since eharmony’s inception, we have endeavored to give appropriate contract notices and disclosures to our subscribers. We remain as committed today as we were 17 years ago to providing a high-quality user experience. Without any admission, we have cooperated with the government, which has previously launched similar investigations against a long list of eCommerce companies, and have chosen to settle to avoid the distraction and expense of protracted litigation. In collaboration with the government, eHarmony has implemented a new industry standard when disclosing terms in order to make the user experience even better. With the settlement now behind us, we look forward to continuing the important work of helping singles find enduring love,” said Ronald N. Sarian, Vice President & General Counsel,  of eharmony, in a statement.