The Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC) has released its “Duped by Design” report that discusses consumer choice manipulation on websites and apps online.
Much of modern online content has been tailored and specifically designed to manipulate or deceive consumers into specific thought patterns. This is referred to as dark patterns. Dark patterns prey on consumers’ behavioural biases to make choices favourable to the online platform. Common examples of this manipulation include having consumers unintentionally buy items, pay higher prices, struggle to unsubscribe from products or services, or having consumers provide online platforms with more personal data than necessary. According to the CRC’s report, 83% of Australian consumers questioned had experienced more than one negative consequence from these dark patterns.
Due to the nuances of online design, many of these dark patterns fall outside the scope of the current drafting of the Australian Consumer Law. Unfortunately, dark patterns are seen as useful tools for businesses despite demeaning consumer trust and loyalty. One in three Australian consumers questioned in the report have said they have completely stopped using an app or website after experiencing dark patterns.
The CPRC report provides high-level insight into the practices of businesses and the manipulation of Australian consumers. More research will be necessary to refine current legislative regimes and policies, but it is clear that change is necessary to protect online users. Australian regulatory authorities have already begun to crackdown on deceitful online practices, and the CPRC recommends the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission takes heed of legislative practices similar to those in the European Union and the United Kingdom.
For the full reading of the report, see here.