SERNAC detects practices that may induce consumers to provide data, purchase, or overpay for goods or services

SERNAC checked more than 100 websites and found that 64% of the companies apply "Dark Patterns.” These are strategies used by companies on their websites and applications to make people buy or do things they do not want, such as, for example, registering and handing over their data.

To achieve this goal, companies use their knowledge of human behavior and psychology to induce behaviors that are not always favorable to the consumer and may even be misleading.

SERNAC conducted an exploratory study of "Dark Patterns", the name given to the strategies used on websites and applications to encourage or force consumers to do things they do not want to do, such as buying certain products or registering their personal data.

To carry out this study, SERNAC analyzed 107 websites of companies participating in "Cyber" events, looking for those patterns invisible to consumers. Companies use their knowledge of human behavior and psychology to induce conducts that are not always beneficial to people and could even be misleading. To this end, different methods are applied to visually disorient consumers, including confusing language, hidden options, or false calls of urgencies.

"Dark Patterns" can take many forms, such as signs of urgency and scarcity when shopping online or presenting messages such as "last units"; "only for a few hours". These practices also include banners with timers and, activity notifications where "pop-ups" indicate how many people have seen the same publication or have purchased the same item, among other practices.

The study also identified compulsory registrations to enable consumers to buy in a store. Dark patterns also consider free subscriptions that force people to enter their credit card information for unlimited time.

The National Director of SERNAC, Lucas Del Villar, explains that "this is the first study of its kind in Chile, where we want to uncover certain practices that increase asymmetry for consumers as companies, uses their knowledge, to confuse or manage the biases inherent to human beings. Our interest is that consumers learn to identify them, and in the future, use that same knowledge in favor of consumers to generate strategies that favor them".

The authority explained that this has been a topic of interest for protection agencies at the international level. Moreover, even the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Committee on Consumer Policy (CCP) itself has been interested in highlighting these practices.

On the other hand, the Advocacy Director and Communications of the NGO Derechos Digitales, Vladimir Garay, highly valued the study because the research showed “that the most common Dark Patterns in Chile is the compulsory registration, that forces customers to identify themselves with its consequent undermining of consumers’ right to privacy and the protection of personal data".

What did we find?

The analysis focused on ten dark patterns:

  1. Signals of urgency and scarcity
  2. Questionable reviews
  3. Notification reports
  4. Roach motel
  5. Obstacles in price comparison
  6. Drip pricing/hidden costs
  7. Sneaking into the basket
  8. Misdirection or disorientation
  9. Mandatory actions
  10. Hidden subscriptions

From the 107 websites reviewed, in 69 of them (64%), SERNAC detected the utilization of some of those Dark Patterns. The companies with the highest use of "Dark Patterns" were Travel Security, Froens,, DirecTV, La Polar and, Mundo Aromas.

For further information, read more here