Dark Patterns

Have you seen unexpected charges on your credit card and wondered how they got there? Have you accidentally signed up for a membership or service on a website that you didn’t want or know that you signed up for? Have you ever tried to cancel a subscription or membership online and found it was impossible to do? Or worse yet, that you had to show up in person to cancel it? You may have been the victim of a “dark pattern”, computer interfaces that companies intentionally design to trick you into buying services or keeping services that you don’t want. And, it can be actionable.

Dark patterns are user interfaces that companies employ to knowingly confuse users or consumers, making it difficult for them to express their actual preferences, or to manipulate them into taking certain actions. They generally prompt online consumers to purchase goods and services that they do not want or to provide information that they would prefer not to disclose.

While there are many strategies that constitute “dark patterns”, the most typical are:

  • Inability or significant difficulty canceling memberships, subscriptions, and/or stopping unwanted renewals
  • Confusion or fraud causing the user to sign up for a membership or subscription he didn’t intend to purchase
  • False statements that others are purchasing a product playing on a user’s emotions to induce him to make a purchase
  • Placing in a consumer’s cart, an item the consumer did not purchase, or confusing the consumer by placing proposed purchases in his cart that he accidentally clicks on
  • Actual costs or fees that are not disclosed or disclosed late in the sign-up process
  • Tricking or inducing consumers into sharing personal information
  • Tricking or inducing consumers into thinking that registration or a membership is necessary and causing them to unnecessarily pay for it
  • Using a countdown or time clock to coerce consumers into making rapid, ill-considered choices when the clock just starts again if no choice is made
  • Falsely informing a consumer that others are buying the remaining stock of a product, playing on that consumer’s emotions
  • Deceiving a consumer into disclosing information about others, including their names and emails
  • Baiting a consumer with an offer and then switching what is actually being offered and/or the price at which it is being offered
  • Deceptively crafting an ad to look like independent editorial content
  • Falsely ranking companies or comparing rates at which services or goods are offered

TheGrantLawFirm has expertise in spotting and litigating dark patterns. If you have been deceived by a “dark pattern” and have suffered an out of pocket loss, we can help you.