"Our report shows how more and more companies are using digital dark patterns to trick people into buying products and giving away their personal information. This report – and our cases – send a clear message that these traps will not be tolerated," said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Dark patterns include several oft-used marketing techniques such as ads acting as independent content, hiding key terms in corporate jargon, fooling customers or website visitors into giving up personal data, making use of deceitful colors, pre-checked consent boxes, language and emotion to pressure customers into making purchases, deceitfully signing up for content, fooling customers into repeated charges and making it really hard to unsubscribe.
The larger use of e-commerce in the last few years has made it easier for corporations to target consumers with an array of tactics.
The FTC report, which is titled "Bringing Dark Patterns to Light," investigated how these tactics can dim, undermine or harm consumer choice, and may be violating consumer protection laws. (Related: FTC seeks band-aid solution for protection of consumer privacy.)
Based on the report, the FTC has sued corporations employing such tactics to mislead customers.
The FTC sued online lender LendingClub Corp. in 2018 after the company deceitfully marketed "no hidden fees," when in reality the company took away hundreds or even thousands of dollars in hidden straightforward fees from loans.
LendingClub also misled consumers about being qualified for loans when they were not, and receiving money from consumers' bank accounts without authorization.
After a judgment was passed, LendingClub decided to pay off more than $9.7 million to 61,990 consumers who were charged with hidden fees.
The FTC has defined three major principles for businesses when advertising, namely: disclose clearly and accurately the material terms of the sale contract such as costs, deadlines to cancel, frequency of charges and disclosure of essential information; obtain the customer's informed consent before the payment is made; and provide an easy and simple cancellation process.
Failure to follow the said requirements may result in the FTC taking action.
The FTC has also warned consumers to watch out for schemes that could take away their money and their identity. The agency said the biggest of the dark pattern tactics is a camouflage ad that resembles independent, mostly editorial content.
Numerous scam sites pretend to be product reviewers and don't have a real analysis or study, but rather a pay-for-play deal where companies are ranked according to compensation.
In addition to the false ads, scammers also use countdown timers designed to make consumers think they only have a limited time to purchase a particular product or service when the offer is not actually time limited.
Another common dark pattern consumers should know of is a scammer tricking a person into paying for goods or services without his or her consent.
Since subscriptions are a great way for products to gain consumers in a monthly or quarterly cycle of renewing, deceitful subscription sellers are also trying to charge consumers with repeated payments for products and services they never intended to purchase or do not wish to continue buying.
Follow Disinfo.news for more news about misinformation tactics being used on consumers.
Watch the video below to know why the FTC and 48 attorneys general filed antitrust lawsuit against Facebook.
This video is from the The Sword & Shield channel on Brighteon.com.