Dark patterns and what you need to know about them

The Office of Fair Trading and other Australian consumer protection regulators are running to national educational campaign to raise awareness of dark patterns and how to spot them.

The campaign aims to educate consumers on what dark patterns are and provide them with some general consumer tips for buying online.

Dark patterns are tactics some businesses use to nudge, manipulate or trick consumers into spending more money than planned or providing personal data that’s not needed. They are often used on online platforms, shopping websites and apps, and in emails and sms.

Some common dark patterns include:

  • hidden costs – extra costs consumers only find out about towards the end of their purchase, or which are made less obvious.
  • scarcity cues – designed to create a fear of missing out, which pushes users to make rushed decisions about buying or spending more than they planned.
  • trick questions – used to make choices that are in the business’s interests and not necessarily the consumers.
  • forced continuity -subscriptions that are easy to sign up to, but hard to get out of
  • disguised advertisements or clickbait – ads that look like a news headline or link, designed to attract attention so consumers click through to online content.

Shopping online can be cheaper and more convenient for you. However, make sure you understand your rights before you click ‘pay now’.

To avoid post-purchase regret, don’t rush and:

  • budget and spend sensibly
  • shop around
  • do your research to be sure the website is reputable and safe to use
  • ask family and friends for supplier recommendations or do a quick search for reviews
  • read the fine print, including the terms and conditions before you click pay
  • understand the trader’s refund policy and know your consumer guarantee rights.

Finally, while it may be tempting to sign up to a newsletter to get a discount, make sure you’re not sharing more personal information than you want to.

For more information on dark patterns visit the Office of Fair Trading’s website: www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading

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