According to Wired.com, Anthony Michaels received an email last December from Classmates.com advising him that his former classmates were trying to contact him. He proceeded to upgrade to the premium Classmates.com membership so that he might contact his long lost school mates. But Michaels learned that no one that he knew was actually trying to contact him, He is claiming in his class action law suit, that it was a deceptive scam. The suit, brought in San Diego, was filed by Kabateck, Brown and Kellner.
I was struck by the similarities of Classmates.com’s tactics to those frequently used by Merchant Circle. There have been a number of writers (John Batelle, Matt McGee, Greg Sterling & myself) and readers critical of Merchant Circle’s tactics. Matt’s post from September of 2006 is of interest because every time MC cranks up a questionable marketing practice, the comments start flowing in. The comments section on that post now has 132 comments and most of them are quite recent.
As the Wired article points out, the limited budgets of the states’ Attorney Generals have limited their action in dealing with deceptive advertising and “that leaves class action attorneys on the front line of technology in the consumer area.”
Update: Miriam Ellis of Solas Design has a related post on deceptive marketing practices on Yelp in the SF area: SMBs Say Yuck To Yelp’s TelemarketersClassmates.com User Sues - Should Merchant Circle worry? by Mike Blumenthal