Nearly 40% of online shops use abusive techniques to manipulate their customers, a review of some 400 European web shops showed on Monday.
The analysis, conducted by the European Commission and consumer protection authorities in 20 countries, focused on the use by the web shops of “dark patterns” - manipulative practices that lead consumers to make choices against their best interests.
According to the survey, some 70 sites were found to withhold important information – the cost of delivery, for example – or not to display it clearly. In addition, 54 web shops were directing customers towards options such as subscriptions or more expensive products through their design or language.
Another technique to encourage customers to buy without thinking too much: 42 sites used a false countdown suggesting to shoppers that the desired product could no longer be purchased after a certain period.
In total, 148 of the 399 sites analysed used a technique deemed manipulative.
Reacting to the findings, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders on Monday called on member states to crack down.
“We already have binding instruments to tackle such practices and I call on national authorities to take action against them,” he said.
He added that the Commission was working on a complete overhaul of consumer protection legislation to adapt it to the digital age.