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Dark Patterns and Other Sneaky tricks on Your Website Will Get You in Trouble


Do you have dark patterns on your website? That phrase may seem evil, or scary or like something out of a science fiction movie. But in reality, it’s a term that describes techniques and tricks on websites that can deceive and trick consumers, and you may be using them on your website, whether you know that they are there, and whether you intended them to be there, or not.

Anything that deceives consumers into paying money, signing up for anything, or which makes it harder or more confusing for a consumer to cancel any service that they are paying for, is considered a dark pattern. Dark patterns come in many different forms, but some of the more common techniques that many websites use are these:

Hidden Ads – Often, pages on the website will seem neutral, or will seem like they are reviewing products, or that they are unaffiliated with any company. In truth however, a company is “behind” those sites, with an agenda—usually to sell the product or service that gets the “best review.”

Anything that purposely hides the fact that a website or editorial content is an advertisement, can be considered a dark pattern.

Limited Sales – Often, companies advertise that something is on sale for a limited period of time, when in actuality, the sale will last forever-the sale price is the actual price. Making consumers believe they better act fast, to get a better deal, when that deal will actually never go away, can get your business in trouble.

Cancellation – It used to be that for consumers to cancel subscriptions or services, they would have to navigate through complex and buried menus and submenus, or cancellation was hidden in pages that a consumer wouldn’t think to look in.

Many major services today make cancellation much easier because of government fines and crackdowns, but you should always avoid making it difficult or confusing for a consumer to cancel a service or subscription.

“X-ing Out” Pop Ups – Ever notice that a pop up often comes up to advertise something, and it is often difficult to figure out how to actually close that window or pop-up? Sometimes you can’t even find the little “X” needed to close the window.

Making it difficult to close windows that have ads or promotions, is considered misleading and the government will fine your business for doing this purposely.

Watch your language – You can even get in trouble for disparaging customers who do not want to do business with you.

For example, imagine a page asking someone to sign up for your service. If they want the service, that’s easy, they click “Yes.” But if they don’t, the button says “No thanks, I don’t like to save money,” or “I’ll make a mistake and pass on the offer,” or something that suggests fault, shame, or foolishness, for rejecting an advertised product or service.

That kind of disparagement is a dark pattern and can get you in trouble—and yes, the FTC can, and does, fine websites and businesses that engage in these practices.

We can help you market and advertise the safe way. Don’t get in legal trouble. Let us advise you and legal ways to promote your business. Call our Fort Lauderdale business lawyers at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954-440-3993 today.




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