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Amazon fined in Poland for misleading users through dark patterns

According to UOKiK, Amazon misled users into believing that placing an order or receiving an order confirmation was tantamount to a sales contract, which would be binding on the company.

E-commerce giant Amazon has been fined in Poland for misleading consumers through their user interface. According to a press release by Poland’s Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK), the company has been fined PLN 31,850,141 or close to $8 million. The watchdog body called out Amazon for misleading customers through ‘dark patterns’ that obfuscated the nature of the shipping contract and Amazon’s delivery obligations.

According to the CEO of the Advertising Standards Council of India, “A dark pattern is any user interface intended to trick users into making choices that are detrimental to their interests, such as buying a more expensive product or paying more than what was initially disclosed, sharing data, or making choices based on false or paid-for reviews.” In essence, dark patterns are design choices in apps or websites that mislead users regarding the nature of products or deliveries.  

UOKiK had been looking into allegations of Amazon’s use of dark patterns since 2021. According to the agency, Amazon misled users into believing that placing an order or receiving an order confirmation was tantamount to a sales contract, which would be binding on the company. In fact, it is merely an offer to purchase the product and Amazon is entitled to cancel the order if it feels. The contract is entered into only when Amazon makes the actual shipping notice. The agency alleged that Amazon made this information difficult to access for users and instead provided them with buttons saying “Buy Now” or “Proceed to Checkout”, which created a false impression.

Secondly, Amazon also displayed countdown timers to users which implied that they would receive an order on a certain date provided they placed the order within a certain time frame. This placed pressure on the consumer to buy as soon as possible. However, Amazon often failed to meet these deadlines while presenting them as a guarantee.

Finally, Amazon’s ‘guaranteed delivery’, which is intended to deliver a product to the customer within a certain amount of time or issue a refund, was not clearly explained to users before they placed orders. This meant that customers were often unaware of their rights.

In November last year, India’s Central Consumer Protection Authority notified a list of guidelines intended to protect customers from dark patterns.

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