Behavioural Study on Unfair Commercial Practices in the Digital Environment
Open Evidence, in consortium with London School of Economics, Schlesinger Group (BDI) and Brainsigns, will lead a new behavioural study on unfair commercial practices in the digital environment for the European Commission (DG JUST). The consortium will provide evidence base needed to identify potential problematic business-to-consumers online commercial practices and to assess their impact on the economic behaviour of consumers. The study aims to provide new empirical evidence which 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. In light of the sharp increase of online shopping activities during the pandemic, the study will consider 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 will use a set of different qualitative and quantitative methods to reach the three main objectives of the study: (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 activities include a systematic review of the relevant literature, online mystery shopping, digital ethnography, semi-structured interviews, behavioural experiment and surveys. With the support of one of the partners, Brainsings, the consortium will use for the first time also use neuroscientific tools to measure neurometric and emotional indicators of participants of the experiments.
The consortium will take a consultative approach, involving in the study fifteen experts on the topic working in different fields (academia, trade association, consumer association, supervisory authority). A constant dialogue throughout the project, including three interactive workshop will ensure that different views are taken into account when assessing the commercial practices and providing the final policy recommendations.