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Protecting the Rights of Consumers For Over 25 Years


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released a report, “Bringing Dark Patterns to Light,” detailing the rise in “dark patterns” – marketing and presentation devices that tend to trick and trap consumers. The report follows an April 2021 workshop addressing whether user interfaces can subvert consumer decision-making.

The report indicates what the FTC considers to be “dark patterns”:

1. A seller may employ design elements that create a misleading impression to spur consumers into making a purchase they would not otherwise make. For example, advertisements may be deceptively formatted to look like independent, editorial content; purportedly neutral comparison-shopping sites may rank companies based on compensation; and countdown timers may cause consumers to believe they only have a limited time to purchase a product or service when the offer is not actually time limited.

2. A seller buries key limitations in dense terms of service documents that consumers don’t see before purchase.

3. A seller engages in “drip pricing,” a form of bait and switch where companies advertise only part of a product’s total price to lure in consumers, while failing to mention other mandatory charges until late in the buying process.

4. Offering a free trial period that automatically converts into a recurring subscription charge if consumers fail to cancel.

5. Making it hard for consumers to cancel subscription services, resulting in ongoing recurring charges.

6. Children’s games that rack up real charges for the account holder.

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