According to Heather Burns, author The Web Designer’s Guide to the Consumer Rights Directive, The EU’s new consumer rights law bans certain dark patterns related to e-commerce across Europe. She states in an interview with 90percentofeverything.com, “The ‘sneak into basket’ pattern is now illegal. Full stop, end of story. You cannot create a situation where additional items and services are added by default. No more having to manually remove insurance from your basket when purchasing plane tickets.”
Hidden costs are now illegal, whether that’s an undeclared subscription, extra shipping charges, or extra items. While the costs are still permissible, failing to advise the customer about them or explain what they are is not. Everything has to be brought out in the open, explained, and clarified before checkout. Even if you are not able to declare a specific additional cost in advance – say, supplemental shipping charges to remote areas – you still have to declare that these charges exist and will be applied to the order.
However, she continues to explain that the directive only dealt with Dark Patterns concerning e-commerce. Burns said, “Dark Patterns concerning other issues like privacy, information disclosure, sharing and advertising are not affected. We also have yet to see what new Dark Patterns will be invented in response to the Directive!”
So what will happen to businesses who continue to use these Dark Patterns?
“Quite simply, businesses who don’t comply face a loss of revenue. If you make a purchase, whether that’s buying goods or a service, on a non-compliant web site, you have the right to recourse through your nearest Trading Standards office, in other words, your local Council. Unlike the cookie law, which is dealt with by one UK-wide bureaucracy which has bigger fish to fry, this law is dealt with on a local level.”
“A failure to comply cancels the transaction. You can get your money back and keep the goods. If the sale was for a service or a digital download, the contract is cancelled and no further payments are due.”