Deceptive online marketing

Dark patterns are manipulative design techniques used in online marketing to trick or deceive consumers into making unintended decisions, such as buying a product or signing up for a service. Examples of dark patterns include “sneak into basket” (adding an unadvertised item to a customer’s shopping cart), “bait-and-switch” (advertising one product and then switching to a different, more expensive product), and “misdirection” (directing the customer’s attention away from important or relevant information).

Better regulation of dark patterns is necessary to protect consumers from being misled or taken advantage of. Without regulation, companies can use these techniques to exploit consumer behavior, manipulate consumer choice, and erode consumer trust in e-commerce. For example, a company may use a dark pattern to mislead a consumer into signing up for a subscription service that is difficult to cancel, resulting in recurring charges. Additionally, dark patterns can discourage competition by making it more difficult for consumers to make informed choices about products and services.

In general, it is important to have regulations in place to protect consumers from deceptive practices, and to ensure that e-commerce is fair and transparent. This will make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions, and will promote trust and confidence in the digital marketplace.


Want to know more about darke commercial patterns?
Check out this CHOICE, Consukmer Policy Research Centre and Fairer Future Webinar


Thanks Allan! And hello to - I’m Jess, Director of Campaigns and Communications.

I’d love to know what Community members think of this topic. Have you spotted Dark Patterns in your own online shopping? What most concerns you?


Using the forum search feature will bring up a number of existing discussions of dark patterns, most relevantly Dark patterns tip line and the Choice article linked there.

The simplest example that I can think of relating to dark patterns is just “buttons” / “checkboxes” that default to the setting that most benefits the web site operator and least benefits the user. That way, after they have numbed you with a whole lot of incomprehensible crap, click click click click clicking carelessly will get their way with you.

A specific concrete example would be a checkbox that subscribes you to their mailing list and which, of course, defaults to “checked”. So you have to uncheck the checkbox before clicking on.

Perhaps more controversially I would regard all EULAs, Ts & Cs, etc. as a dark pattern, in the sense that most users will not invest 40 minutes of their time attempting to understand 10 pages of opaquely worded text in small font. In other words, the very term “fine print” is a literal reference to the original dark pattern.


The link for the most Dark Commercial Patterns Webinar on Monday was pretty small. Here is a more accessible version:


There is more information about this on the website here Invitation: Webinar - Dark commercial patterns and regulatory responses to protect consumers - Fairer Future



I have to constantly check when upgrading software to ensure that ‘additional benefits’ that is more software is not loaded. Another example is unticking default ticked boxes to unsubscribe from marketting by the business, their third party partners, and anyone else they can sell your info to.


Looks like i’ve just fallen for one!

Earlier in the week I was checking on the availability of a return flight from Sydney to Brisbane on Rex.

I wasn’t ready to book then as I was still confirming the dates.

When I finally went to book a couple of days later, the cheaper return flight which was $159 had jumped to $179 so I assumed the flight was filling up fast.

I double checked using a different incognito browser and my tablet to see if the same price was being charged and it was.

I quickly booked the flights to avoid any other increases.

About 10 minutes later I checked back as I wanted to see why my seat selection hadn’t shown up on my confirmation email and the $179 flight had reverted to $159.

The website appeared to know I had made my booking and returned the price to what it had been previously.

Due to this experience I won’t fly on Rex again.