Irish online consumers can be led into over consumption, over indebtedness and may lose out on fair pricing and terms due to online e-commerce practices by some sellers, according to the European Consumer Centre Ireland.
Last year Irish people were the third biggest online shoppers in Europe after the Netherlands and Denmark.
The European Consumer Centre Ireland is warning consumers that some shopping websites are designed to entice or manipulate customers into making purchases or sign up for services they find very difficult to cancel.
Consumers may be manipulated by being told of false scarcity and limited times offers or may lose out when website prices change based on an individual’s personal data or browsing history.
They may also lose out when they are required to purchase more than one product, or there is an absence of a returns policy.
The centre cites European Commission research which found that most consumer rights breaches in the digital sphere have to do with unfair commercial practices, unfair pricing and unfair contract terms.
It said consumers who encounter difficulties while shopping online in the EU can contact it for advice and assistance.
Most recently, among the most prominent issues identified, were “dark patterns”, untruthful discounts for Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales, unfair commercial practices by car rental intermediaries, fake online consumer reviews, unfair terms for subscription payments and deceptive greenwashing claims.
Dark patters are design elements or e-commerce features, which are deliberately placed on shopping websites, to entice or manipulate consumers into making a purchase or signing up for a service or subscription.
These can be pop-ups that require users to provide their e-mail address before they can access a website or a “limited-time offer” that creates a sense of urgency.