CMA Investigation update

I’m now able to give you an update on the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) investigation into ‘dark patterns’ at Wowcher. The CMA has concluded its investigation and called on Wowcher to give undertakings to change its practices. Failure to do so could result in Court proceedings.

The CMA found that Wowcher’s website: ‘features extensive use of countdown clocks and marketing claims such as ‘Running out!’ or ‘In high demand! which create an impression of urgency and influence shoppers as they are making their purchasing decisions.’

Claims of this kind risk giving customers the misleading impression that products will increase in price or become unavailable when this is often not the case and, particularly when used with countdown clocks, can put pressure on shoppers to make rushed purchases for fear of missing out.

The CMA also highlighted other practices used by Wowcher, including hidden charges and the use of a pre-ticked box to enrol consumers into VIP memberships on Wowcher’s site, which:

‘may lead to additional unintended purchases by consumers.’

As emails featuring dark patterns flood inboxes in January, with warnings that offers and sale prices are about to end (and, in some cases, yo-yo’ing prices), this is a good time to review your own practices. For more on what dark patterns are, see our previous article.

Gillian Harding