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Amazon fined in Poland for dark graphic design tricks

Amazon has been fined in Poland for misleading consumers when entering into sales contracts on its online marketplace. The sanctions, worth nearly $8 million (or in local currency: PLN 31,850,141), also accuse the e-commerce giant of deceptive design elements that could create a false sense of urgency and mislead the purchasing process. Consumer information about factors such as product availability and delivery. date.

The country’s consumer watchdog UOKiK has been investigating complaints about Amazon’s sales practices since September 2021, after receiving complaints from shoppers, including some who did not receive goods. The agency launched a formal investigation into Amazon’s conduct in February 2023. Wednesday’s sanctions were the conclusion of that investigation.

UOKiK found that consumers who order products on Amazon may subsequently have their purchases canceled by the tech giant because, although order confirmations are sent to consumers, Amazon does not treat the moment of purchase as the conclusion of a sales contract. This includes after the consumer has paid for the product. For Amazon, a sales contract is concluded only after sending information about the actual shipment.

In a press release detailing the enforcement, Amazon said it failed to clearly communicate this important detail to shoppers, finding that it only provided the information “at the very end of the purchase.” It also found that it was sometimes “difficult” for consumers to access the information, noting that, for example, Amazon could use gray fonts on a white background in the text displayed at the very bottom of the page – a classic example of what is known as “dark graphic design”.

UOKiK contrasted this deceptive design choice with the suggestive messages Amazon displays to shoppers on sales buttons — which say “Buy now” or “Proceed to complete your purchase” — which it says means by By ordering a product, the shopper will enter into a contract with Amazon. In fact, this is not the case.

“As a result, Amazon misled consumers as to the timing of the sales contract,” the agency wrote. [in Polish; this is a machine translation]. “For many people this also has negative consequences: the consumer does not receive the product and therefore cannot use it, he loses the opportunity to buy at an attractive price that may no longer be available, and his money is frozen , until he returns it.”

Some of the complaints UOKiK received also found that information on how to cancel an order might not be provided until well after the order was placed, with UOKiK citing cases of canceled e-book reader orders where key details were not provided for a month.

Law enforcement also alleges that Amazon uses deceptive design to encourage shoppers to click to buy by providing misleading information about product availability and delivery windows, such as listing quantities of in-stock items to purchase and providing a countdown clock to order items. to receive it on a specific delivery date. However, the investigation found that Amazon did not always adhere to these order deadlines and did not ship orders immediately because they might be out of stock, despite claims to the contrary to consumers.

“Amazon considers the data it provides on availability and shipping dates to be indicative, but the manner in which it is presented does not indicate this,” UOKiK noted, adding: “Consumers can only purchase sales on the platform. Understand this in the terms.”

UOKiK President Tomasz Chróstny commented in a statement: “Information about product availability and its fast shipping is very valuable to consumers and for many it may be the main reason for their purchasing decision. However, Such information cannot be a temptation. If an entrepreneur provides a specific delivery date, he or she must adhere to that date. This practice by Amazon is classified as a so-called dark pattern because it uses pressure to get consumers to order products as quickly as possible .”

And Amazon Do Offering a delivery guarantee and refunds if items are not dispatched within a stipulated time, authorities found it failed to provide consumers with information about the service’s rules before they placed an order – providing details only during the order aggregation stage . Then only “if the consumer decides to read the subsequent link specifying delivery details”.

Shoppers who don’t click on the link to read more may not know that they have the right to request a refund from Amazon and receive a refund if shipping is delayed. It also found that the e-commerce giant failed to provide information about a “delivery guarantee” in purchase confirmations sent to shoppers.

We reached out to Amazon for comment on the sanctions, but as of this writing, it has yet to respond. It has the option to appeal.

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