True (dating service)
True was an online dating service that was founded in 2003 by entrepreneur Herb Vest.
True.com is no longer an online dating site.
Its original name was TrueBeginnings.com, but the company felt that this name was too limiting, as company leadership wanted to expand the company into other markets one day. In 2004 the domain name True.com was purchased and the company changed its name. True is known for its strict policies regarding background checks, which are used to ensure that members are not felons or married. Vest reports 16 million total members, as of May 2007  but it is unclear how many of them are actual paying or active members. Of that, an independent analysis shows an estimated 3.8 million unique visits to the site per month .
True advertises aggressively online and spent $52.2 million in online advertising from January to November 2006, more than any other online dating service. True's ads vary in theme and often feature provocatively dressed women with sex-themed taglines such as "It's nice to be naughty." These ads are particularly prevalent on MySpace. Partly because of its ad campaign, True has become, in only four years since its founding, one of the most visited sites in the online dating industry, according to The New York Times.
On September 14, 2007, the New York Times' "Bits" blog reported that an executive at a major Internet company said that True is delinquent on its advertising payments on his and other websites and has had to cut back on advertising as a result. On April 1, 2007, LiveJournal parodied the True ad campaign on their website. This year they boosted marketing spending 70 percent to $75 million.
True has lobbied state lawmakers in favor of legislation requiring online dating services to disclose whether or not they conduct background checks. True is currently supporting bills under consideration in Texas, Michigan, and Florida. CEO Herb Vest has expressed a preference for pursuing such bills at the state level, saying "state legislatures are particularly vulnerable to influence from special interest groups because they are less in the media spotlight than the national Congress."
Points of difference
True is well known for requiring criminal background and marital screenings for all of its communicating members. True will cancel the account of anyone found to be married, separated or having a pending divorce without warning, and also reports them to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Convicted felons will not only have their accounts canceled, but are reported to the IC3 and to local authorities.
The company has even filed lawsuits against individuals for misrepresenting themselves on its site, under the premise that doing so is wire fraud. Most notably, it sued Robert Wells, a 66-year-old convicted felon and child molester from Walnut Creek, California. He had been able to avoid detection because California doesn't provide criminal data to businesses. Another True member discovered Wells' criminal history and alerted the company. Wells and True reached a settlement in which Wells agreed to pay monetary damages to True, perform community service and never use an online dating service again. The most recent lawsuit was filed in March 2007 against a convicted felon and registered sex offender from Florida who attempted to communicate with its members.
Blogger David Evans is quoted in the New York Times as saying True's competitors were upset with True's sex-themed ad campaign, saying that "they worked hard to overcome the stigma of providing these services, [a]nd True comes in, grabs the lead in page views and drives up the cost of dating keywords on the search engines for everyone else."
The New York Times and Online Dating Magazine have noted examples of customers having frustrating experiences trying to cancel their service, including the service failing to honor their cancellation request and charging them for several more months.
True employs an optional, automatic "wink" to its members which seem to come from other members, without the latter's knowledge. The feature can be disabled at any time, and True maintains that this feature encourages communication between members. Still, it is the subject of much controversy, as members have no way of knowing whether the wink was automatic or manual, and thus creates confusion. Some people have asked in their profiles not to be winked at for this exact reason.
According to Dallas CEO, "True ran into early financial troubles, which included layoffs in 2004, about the same time Match.com cut its own workforce." True has had two more rounds of layoffs since 2004.
Class action lawsuit
A lawsuit seeking class action status was filed against True.com on Tuesday, June 12, 2007, alleging fraudulent billing practices, particularly charging members after they have cancelled their service. The lawsuit, titled "Wong v. True Beginnings, LLC", was filed in Dallas County, Texas on behalf of Thomas Wong who resides in Washington and was a member of True.com in August 2006. Wong alleges he was continually charged for several months after he cancelled his membership with True.com. Mr. Wong is represented by Tycko & Zavareei LLP in Washington, D.C.; and Crews, Shepherd & McCarty LLP in Dallas, Texas.
- Stone, Brad (September 14, 2007). "Is True.com Being Untrue to Advertising Partners?". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
- Vest, Herb (August 2004). "Chapter 11, The Political Paradigm". Instructions to my Officers. TRUE. ISBN 978-1-56870-547-7.
- "Dinner, Movie -- and a Background Check -- for Online Daters". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
- Stone, Brad (March 19, 2007). "Hot but Virtuous Is an Unlikely Match for an Online Dating Service". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
- "Lawsuit Against True.com Exposes Problems with Service". Online Dating Magazine. June 14, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-11.
- Wong v. TrueBeginnings LLC, case 3:2007cv01244 in Texas Northern District Court, Dallas Office.