40% online shops mislead customers
Nearly 40 percent of online shops in Europe uses so-called ‘dark patterns’. These are ways of encouraging customers into making a purchase under false pretenses, such as hiding costs and false countdowns.
These are some of the results from research by the European Commission. The study included 399 online stores in 23 countries in the European Union (EU).
148 shops use at least one dark pattern
Of the 399 online stores, 148 partake in at least one misleading technique. These so-called dark patterns are ways of manipulating customers into placing an order. The European Commission also looked at the apps of online shops. Out of 102 apps, 27 employ at least one dark pattern.
Hidden costs and false countdowns
Hiding important information happens most frequently: 70 shops use this tactic. This can be hiding delivery costs, the composition of a product or cheaper alternatives. For 23 online retailers, information was kept from customers to lure them into a subscription.
Withholding information is the most frequent tactic.
In addition to withholding information, 54 websites used visual tricks or misleading language to refer to more expensive subscriptions, products and delivery options. As much as 42 online shops use countdown timers with false deadlines for buying a product.
‘Goes against consumer protection’
According to the European Commission, national authorities will contact the companies in question and take further action if necessary. Furthermore, the Commission will evaluate if current consumer protection laws are equipped for dark patterns.
“This behaviour is clearly wrong.”
“This behaviour is clearly wrong and goes against consumer protection”, European commissioner for Justice Dider Reynders says. “Today, we have binding instruments to take on such problems and I call on the national authorities to employ their enforcement capabilities to take action and fight these practices.”