Researchers and regulators have established that dark patterns:
researchers have established at
least 4 different types of
harms to individuals
A number of existing laws already apply to dark patterns: consumer laws prohibiting unfair commercial practices such as Section 5 of the FTC Act or the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, data protection regulations like GDPR imposing principles of fairness, transparency, data collection minimisation and informed consent, competition law prohibiting abuse of dominance…
But dark patterns are everywhere and cause severe harms, so regulators around the globe are adopting specific laws to expressly prohibit them:
For example, EpicGames recently settled a complaint before the FTC in a total amount of $520 million for dark patterns charging players for unwanted in-game purchases. The FTC’s signal to the market is clear: get rid of any dark patterns, quickly.
The global legislative framework is shifting towards
clarity, transparency, accessibility and fairness by design
Did you know that almost 50% of users exposed to scarcity and social proof dark patterns on hotel booking sites distrust these sites? (link to Shaw 2019) Researchers evidenced that dark patterns decrease consumers’ trust in the brands using them.
Dark patterns have also been found to alter competition:
By impeding consumers’ ability to select the best firms on the merits of their
offerings, dark patterns can distort the competitive process as a whole.
If dark patterns can alter our commercial and social behavior, we also wonder which effects they could have on our democratic systems?
Research shows that a third of users exposed to dark patterns like scarcity and social proof claims on hotel booking sites expressed contempt and disgust, and nearly 50% distrusted the sites as a result. Clearly, a business strategy based on dark patterns is doomed to fail, simply because users will lose trust in these businesses and go elsewhere – even without mentioning the risks of fines and bad reputation.
Similarly, researchers have shown that any short-term gains an online business gets from dark patterns are likely to be lost in the long term.
Transparency and fairness by design, on the other hand, have been showed to foster trust and long-term customer loyalty.