When does a clever digital design become deception? In response to hypercompetitive online markets, businesses have developed savvy ways of presenting offers to customers, in an effort to increase the desirability of products and reduce, as much as possible, any friction or impediments to completing a sale. These strategies take many familiar forms, including but by no means limited to:
- Targeted ads.
- Suggested add-ons based on shopping history.
- Free trial periods automatically converting to paid subscriptions, automatic billing absent cancellation, and other similar negative option programs.
These techniques are not inherently illegal, provided customers have the information needed to make an informed choice and the option to refuse. However, online user experiences that result in or rely on consumer deception to benefit a business are coming under increased legal scrutiny based on the concept of dark patterns.
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