An ad for eHarmony has been banned for claiming to use a ‘scientifically proven matching system’.
A billboard ad for the dating site on a London Underground platform, first seen in July, said: ‘Step aside, fate. It’s time science had a go at love.’
It went on: ‘Imagine being able to stack the odds of finding lasting love entirely in your favour. eHarmony’s scientifically proven matching system decodes the mystery of compatibility and chemsitry so you don’t have to. Why leave the most important search of your life to chance?’
The Advertising Standards Authority found that eHarmony could offer no evidence that customers had a significantly greater chance of finding lasting love on the site.
Lord Lipsey, the joint chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Statistics and a former lay member of the ASA’s council, lodged the complaint that triggered the ruling.
He said: ‘Phrases like “scientifically proven” should be confined to claims that are just that, not used in crude puffery designed to lure in those longing for love. This is a new form of fake news which the ASA has rightly slapped down.’
The site said it used an algorithm based on scientific theories in the relationship literature of assortive mating that required users to complete lengthy questionnaires to determine their personality traits, values, interests and other factors.
Users were then matched to other individuals whose responses complemented their own preferences and matched a specific percentage ofa list of personality factors that eHarmony determined to be vital in successfully matching people.
It added that the algorithm was based on data collected from more than 50,000 married couples in 23 countries, resulting in statistical models that were associated with cut-off thresholds for scores that indicated a high probability of successful relationships if married.
The website submitted a granted patent for their algorithm to the ASA, and also provided a copy of two published studies which it claimed reported higher levels of martial satisfaction for couples who met through eHarmony than any other offline or online source.
eHarmony believed people would interpret the ad to mean that its scientific approach could potentially work for them, and not that it would guarantee they would make connections or find lasting love.
But the ASA said consumers would interpret the claim ‘scientifically proven matching system’ to mean that scientific studies had found that the website offered users a significantly greater chance of finding lasting love than what could be achieved if they did not use the service.
It also noted that neither of the studies provided by eHarmony revealed anything about the overall percentage of its users who had found lasting love after using the website compared to other sources.
Therefore, neither study provided insight into the likelihood of the website finding users lasting love comapred to users who did not use the service.
The ASA said: ‘Because the evidence provided by eHarmony did not demonstrate that their matching system offered users a significantly greater chance of finding lasting love than what could be achieved if they didn’t use the service, we concluded that the claim “scientifically proven matching system” was misleading.’