Commissioner's Blog: Shedding light on dark patterns

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As the cost of living continues to pinch, most people are looking for ways to save a bit of money, but some businesses use sneaky tricks to make us spend more than intended.


Dark patterns are tactics used to nudge, manipulate or trick you into spending more than planned or providing personal data that isn’t needed.


These tactics can be used in many situations, but the place you will see them most often is on digital channels such as online platforms, shopping websites and apps.


From scarcity cues designed to create a fear of missing out (FOMO), trick questions to get you to choose an option you may not want, to subscriptions that are easy to sign up to but difficult to cancel, to shaming you with loaded language designed to make you feel silly or worried if you don’t agree to buying a product or service, dark patterns can create consumer harm by eroding consumer trust and placing a strain on budgets.


A whopping 83 per cent of Australians have experienced negative consequences after falling victim to dark patterns according to a Consumer Policy Research Centre study. They reported financial harm or a feeling of being manipulated, and a quarter of Australians said dark patterns led them to share more personal information than they wanted.


The research also showed younger consumers (aged between 18 and 28 years) are even more negatively impacted by dark patterns. They are more likely to part with more of their money and their personal information than any other age group. This impacts their financial wellbeing and means more businesses have access to their personal information.


If you spot dark patterns and don’t want to accept them, choose a different retailer, or shop in store.  To avoid post-purchase regret don’t be rushed into buying something, shop around and stick to your budget, make sure the website is reputable or even ask friends and family for recommendations. It’s also important to know your consumer rights so make sure you read the fine print before clicking ‘buy’, keep your proof of purchase and know when you’re entitled to a refund, repair or replacement.


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. Before you sign up to a subscription service be aware of any ongoing fees, read and understand the terms and conditions, and check what the process will be to cancel.


For more information on your rights as a consumer and tips on how to shop smart visit our website  or call 1300 30 40 54.



Consumer Protection
Media release
06 May 2024

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