If you’ve placed an Amazon order with a particular seller because the delivery estimate for the item you need seems to match, only to be disappointed when a different (later) delivery estimate appears. after You have completed the payment process, This action Poland’s competition and consumer watchdog may be interested: it is accusing Amazon of misleading consumers about delivery times, product availability, sales contracts and their consumer rights.
UOKiK has been working on complaints about the ecommerce giant’s practices, which it has been investigating since September 2021. It has now taken steps to publicly accuse Amazon of misleading consumers — and will proceed to investigate the allegations.
If suspicions that Amazon is violating consumer protection rules are confirmed, the tech giant could face a fine of up to 10% of its local turnover.
Commenting on a statement – which we have translated from Polish using machine translation – the president of UOKiK, Tomasz Chróstny, said:
Consumers make purchase decisions under the influence of various factors. In addition to price, it is important that the product arrives within the expected time, and when Amazon suggests an offer, they can be confident that the store will provide it. They have the right to rely on the declarations provided on the website and assume that the actions available are not misleading. If consumers knew that placing an order is not yet a purchase, and that the availability of products and the delivery time provided are only estimates, they may not use the services. [Amazon].
UOKiK’s research has so far found that Amazon does not treat placing an order as a sales contract, despite emailing consumers a confirmation of their order – which buyers may assume is the conclusion of a sales contract. Instead, Amazon’s terms specify the moment of shipment as a binding sales contract – although the regulator also found that the company was not clearly communicating this key detail to consumers.
In a press release about the process, UOKiK pointed out the visual difference between the brightly colored “Buy Now” and “Proceed to Checkout” buttons that Amazon shows consumers to avoid ordering — and the small print provision in its terms of sale. Provided that the contract of sale is not actually concluded until the product ships.
Amazon also shows this small print to consumersAt the final stage of the procurement process – but it does it”Using a gray font on a white background and placing it at the very bottom of the page, which may require you to scroll down the screen” – meaning it is “difficult” to read on UOKiK’s view.
“What really grabs consumers’ attention is the buy-and-deal “Buy Now” (on the product page) or “Proceed to checkout” (after adding to the cart). [buttons] Highlighted in bright colors,” UOKiK writes. “In the opinion of the president of the office, such a word can suggest that when the product is ordered, it is purchased, and payment for the transaction goods is immediate.”
So, in other words, Amazon is deploying a classic piece of dark pattern design — one that appears to work against consumers’ rights by advancing Amazon’s own commercial interests in maximizing orders but putting its contractual obligations behind consumers’ payment for goods.
Furthermore, the regulator found that information displayed to consumers on the Amazon platform – product availability and delivery dates – “may not be true”.
“When ordering, consumers are confident that they have purchased the product and that it is in the seller’s possession. Meanwhile, products marked as available, or items with a certain number of pieces, may not actually be in stock or it may be impossible to complete their shipment,” it said in its press release. notes. “Similarly, the time indicated in the delivery messages – on a given day, before a given date, the countdown “Order within 2 hours 34 minutes” – is indicative. However, consumers do not have the opportunity to find out about this at the stage of placing an order without reading the sales conditions of the website. There is only information about the approximate nature of the available data.”
There are also concerns that consumers are not well informed about their rights regarding Amazon’s “delivery guarantee” offer – the platform offers for selected products and the delivery date is presented along with information about when the consumer should order. (ie to be received by the date presented).
If such an order is delayed, the shopper may contact Amazon to obtain a refund of any delivery costs. Although UOKiK has found information about this consumer right is only shown at the checkout summary stage — or if the user actively clicks on subsequent links specifying delivery details.
Furthermore, it notes that Amazon does not include information about the right to receive a refund in shipping confirmations regarding “delivery guaranteed” offer orders. And if consumers aren’t informed of their rights, they may not know they can apply for a refund — and therefore may not get what they’re owed.
Amazon was contacted for a response to UOKiK’s proceedings.
This is not the first time the ecommerce behemoth has faced pushback in Europe over its use of dark patterns to manipulate users of its platform.
Last summer, Amazon agreed to simplify the process required to cancel its Prime membership subscription service on ecommerce sites operating in the European Union following a series of complaints from regional consumer protection groups.
It was also fined – around a billion dollars – the previous summer for breaching EU data protection rules by processing customer data for targeted advertising.
In recent years, the European Commission has also leveled a series of antitrust charges against the platform — one scrutinizing traders’ use of data, and another related to sellers’ offers being displayed in a special “shopping box”. “, late last year after the tech giant made commitments to change its practices around the use of third-party data and how it presents shopping boxes. Although Amazon managed to dodge the fine in this instance (but it still faces a fine of up to 10% of its global turnover may if it is found to be in breach of these commitments which apply for seven years).
The ecommerce giant also faces competition enforcement in Italy — where it was fined $1.3 billion in late 2021 for similar charges investigated by the European Commission.