A new study from the Consumer Policy Research Center (CPRC) has found that 83% of Australians have had a negative experience caused by harmful web design or “dark patterns” online.
Dark patterns are features designed to manipulate a consumer. They can include things like adding hidden costs to a transaction or creating a false sense of urgency around a purchase.
While most web designs are centered around user-friendly principles, dark designs are designed to prioritize profit over user needs.
In its report, Duped by Design, the CPRC found ten common dark patterns that were used on Australian websites.
“Our research clearly shows that dark schemes are hurting consumers. One in five Australians have spent more than they intended and nearly one in six have felt compelled to buy something because of the design of websites or applications”, said Erin Turner, CPRC CEO.
We have done a scan of Australian websites and found a few examples of website designs that appear to be clear breaches of Australian consumer law.
Erin Turner, CCRP CEO
“We have conducted a survey of Australian websites and found examples of website designs that appear to be clear breaches of Australian consumer law.”
Turner said one such example was online store Appliances Online, which when you tried to buy a washing machine automatically added a three-year care plan with “very little value” beyond that. the protection that already exists in consumer law for free.
“The design strongly implies that a buyer has to pay extra for help if something goes wrong, which simply isn’t true,” she says.
The survey of 2,000 Australians found almost one in ten people had accidentally purchased something, while one in four had shared more personal information than they wanted. More than one in four accidentally signed up for something they didn’t want because of a dark pattern.
Among younger consumers, the results were even more striking, with 65% more likely to spend more than expected and 34% more likely to accidentally sign up for something.
Customers don’t want to do business with companies that use dark schemes: 30% of people have stopped using a website or app when faced with this issue.
The research also revealed that customers don’t want to do business with companies that use dark models – 30% of people have stopped using a website or app when faced with this issue.
Turner says there needs to be systemic legal change to improve Australian consumer protections in law, including new rules that capture how businesses handle consumer data.
“Our current competition and consumer laws can only address a narrow range of harms and the onus is on the consumer to identify and report those harms. What we have is an improvised approach when we need of systemic change,” she says.