Behavioural Study on Unfair Commercial Practices in the digital environment: dark patterns and manipulative personalization

Client: DG JUST

Duration: 2021 – 2022

Consortium: Open Evidence (leader), BDI, Brainsigns

Methodology: Behavioural Study

Tools: Literature Review, Interviews, Behavioural Experiments, Neuroscientific Metrics (eye-tracking, facial coding), Surveys, Workshop, Data Analysis

Fieldwork: Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden

Geographical scope: EU27 The study provides the evidence base needed to identify potential problematic business-to-consumers online commercial practices and to assess their impact on the economic behaviour of consumers. In light of the sharp increase of online shopping activities during the pandemic, the study considers the most recent market developments with the perspective of the vulnerable consumers who are more susceptible to unfair practices. These practices include any type of personalisation, such as targeted advertising, personalised pricing/offers, ranking of search results, dark patterns, choice architecture and other communications. The study uses a set of different qualitative and quantitative methods to reach three main objectives: (i) systematic mapping of the online commercial practices, (ii) investigate consumer impact, awareness and perception, and (iii) measure the effectiveness of such practices on consumer behaviour, as well as potential policy measures to protect consumers. The results may help DG JUST to update the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD), as part of the New Consumer Agenda launched by the European Commission in 2020.