An advertisement for online dating site eHarmony has been banned by British ad regulator the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for making claims that the service is scientifically proven to work.
The ban, handed down by the ASA Wednesday, will require eHarmony remove the advertisement from the billboard display on a London Underground platform where it had first appeared in July 2017.
The ad in question from eHarmony contained a headline that read, “Step aside, fate. It's time science had a go at love."
The ad also included additional text that read, “Imagine being able to stack the odds of finding lasting love entirely in your favor. eHarmony's scientifically proven matching system decodes the mystery of compatibility and chemistry so you don't have to. Why leave the most important search of your life to chance? Try something different today. Join eharmony.co.uk.”
eHarmony has long touted its scientific methodology for producing matches, though no independent study has been published on the service’s methods or success rates. The site requires users to fill out a questionnaire that is used to determine the user’s characteristics, beliefs, values, emotional health and skills. eHarmony then uses its matching algorithms to match people based on traits it believes indicate would make for a happy pairing.
It’s worth noting that there has not been an independent study conducted that has backed eHarmony’s claims regarding its methods or success rates. The service has in the past pointed to surveys to back its claims, but many of those surveys were paid for by eHarmony itself.
Given the shaky ground beneath eHarmony’s scientific claims, the British regulators at the ASA deemed it appropriate to require the advertisement be removed. The regulators said that it feared people who saw the ad might believe eHarmony had a scientifically proven method for providing a better shot at finding a relationship.
“We considered that consumers would interpret the claim ‘scientifically proven matching system’ to mean that scientific studies had demonstrated that the website offered users a significantly greater chance of finding lasting love than what could be achieved if they didn't use the service,” the ASA wrote in its decision.
eHarmony initially challenged the complaint by arguing the ad “did not make any specific claims except that their matching system was scientific and could therefore provide an advantage in finding a compatible partner over a purely chance-based system or meeting.”
The dating service provided the ASA with information regarding how its algorithms work, including detailing its use of data from more than 50,000 married couples in 23 countries that are used to form the theories behind the matching algorithm.
eHarmony also provided two studies that consisted of questionnaires filled out by respondents who met on the platform. The ASA rejected the surveys and said they “did not reveal anything about the percentage of the overall users of eHarmony who had found lasting love after using the website compared to other sources.”
The advertisement for the dating service will not be allowed to be displayed in its current form and cannot appear again until eHarmony removes claims of its "scientifically proven matching system" until clear evidence of its success rate is provided.