Controversial dating site RichmeetBeautiful aims to set up students or “sugar babies” with a “sugar daddy” or “sugar mama”.
The site launched its publicity campaign in France on Monday, with trailers carrying billboards stationed near universities in Paris to specifically target students.
“Hey students! Romance, passion and no student loan, go out with a Sugar Daddy or Sugar Mama,” read the billboards.
And RichMeetBeautiful's website adds that students can find “successful men and women who know what they want” with the help of its services.
“Money is not a problem, they know how to be generous when it comes to supporting a Sugarbaby,” says the site.
Unsurprisingly the campaign quickly sparked a backlash, with Deputy Mayor of Paris Bruno Juillard calling the adverts “despicable”.
The City Hall also announced its plans to work with the Paris police headquarters to remove “this shameful publicity” (see below).
The Minister for Higher Education Frederique Vidal and Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa also came forward to publicly denounce the site.
“This site is nothing more than a tool that encourages prostitution and, as a platform that receives money for linking people up, its role is close to pimping,” they said.
The ministers added that the site and public advertising campaign should be banned.
The Norwegian-based website ran into similar problems last month with a campaign in Brussels where authorities also launched a prostitution probe and impounded posters.
Site boss Sigurd Vedal told AFP afterwards that criticisms likening the site to prostitution were unfair.
“It's a classic misunderstanding,” Vedal said. “We are like a normal dating site, but financial is part of the checklist.”
In France, student association FAGE said it had also lodged a criminal complaint about pimping, adding that the advertising campaign “is aimed at attracting vulnerable students… and encouraging them to perform sex acts with older people.”
The site's launch comes at a time when sexual harassment is very much at the centre of public debate in France, and indeed across the world, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
The revelations involving the Hollywood mogul have encouraged an increasing number of women to step forward and speak out against their own experiences of sexual harassment.
And this isn't the first time 'Sugar Daddy' sites have come under fire in France.
In 2014, The Local reported on legal proceeding launched by an association against a similar site, accusing it of pimping.
The group Équipe d’Action, (Action Team) was become the first in France to file legal proceedings against a 'sugar daddy' dating site, which they accuse of operating a disguised prostitution racket.