The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (the “ASA”) has become the latest consumer regulator to highlight the potential for consumer harm from so called “dark patterns”.

In its recent alert, the ASA has highlighted that whilst the term “dark patterns” is relatively new, the behaviour it describes includes a range of misleading advertising practices, which have long been regulated under the CAP Code. The ASA provides some examples of known advertising practices which would fall under the term, such as drip pricing, failure to clearly label ads and subscription traps, and emphasises that “it is an important trend that we continue to monitor”.

Broader Context

The term “dark patterns” is a broad term used to describe design techniques used to influence or manipulate consumer behaviour online. It is quickly becoming a “hot topic” in UK and EU consumer law: dark patterns were highlighted in the UK Competition and Markets Authority’s 2021 research paper: Algorithms: How they can reduce competition and harm consumers, have a dedicated section in the European Commission’s updated guidance on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (published at the end of 2021), and are the focus of a recent position paper published by BEUC - Dark Patterns and the EU Consumer Law Acquis – Recommendations for better enforcement and reform.