The offices of Publishers Clearing House in Jericho, New York, on January 30, 2019.

Bill Perlman/Newsday RM via Getty Images)

How ‘Dark Mode’ Can Appeal to Consumers

On April 1, 2022, Sara Adair displays the $1 million oversized check her husband Mark received from the Publishers Clearing House Bonus Patrol in South Boston, Massachusetts.

Craig F. Walker/Boston Globe, Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission also Last week it sued Amazon, alleging it used “dark patterns” to trick people into resubscribing to its Prime service without their consent.

The FTC says dark graphics are a “manipulative” and illegal design technique, with examples including pre-checked boxes, hard-to-find and read disclosures, and confusing cancellation policies explain. It added that they posed “heightened risks” to online consumers.

“This is the second shady lawsuit we’ve had in the last week,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a written statement about the PCH lawsuit. “Continued deployment of deceptive designs Technology companies have taken notice.”

In the PCH case, the FTC alleges that the company used “manipulative language and website design” to convince consumers that they needed to buy a product in order to enter the company’s sweepstakes or to increase their chances of winning.

The FTC alleges that when it contains disclaimers or clarifications, the text is small and light and easily overlooked by consumers.

In addition to sweepstakes, PCH also sells merchandise and magazines. The FTC accused the company of charging hidden fees that averaged more than 40% of the cost of products and misleading customers using deceptive language in email subject lines and privacy policy statements.

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PCH agreed to a settlement alleging violations of the FTC Act and the Anti-Spam Act. The company will pay $18.5 million to the FTC, which will refund affected consumers. The company was also ordered to stop using deceptive language around sweepstakes and sales, and to stop using surprise fees, among other changes to its business practices.

More broadly, consumers may not realize they are being manipulated or misled by dark patterns because they are “covert or otherwise deceptive,” the FTC said. explain. Examples abound, but some common problems consumers may encounter online include false customer endorsements (e.g., an endorser may have paid), false low-stock messages (e.g., only one item left in stock), and false countdowns Clock (forces consumer to buy immediately, but resets after timeout).

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