Dark Patterns and Sports Direct on BBC Watchdog

This is probably of greatest interest to UK readers, but the sneak into basket dark pattern was featured on BBC Watchdog last week. This dark pattern is going to become illegal in the UK next summer, as our implementation of the EU Consumer Rights Directive (2011) finally comes into action.

Sports Direct, National Express, Skype and Monarch were all singled out as offenders. Sports Direct sneak a mug and/or magazine into your basket when you checkout. Their response was “Following feedback from our customers, we have simplified the process to remove the magazine from an online basket.” Er, here’s a suggestion – how about you stop sneaking stuff into the basket in the first place?

Let’s take a look at how it works today: try ordering something from sportsdirect.com. When you add something to your cart, you’ll see as clear as day that your selected item is the only thing in there. Proceed to checkout and, if you have your wits about you, you’ll see something suddenly has been added to your basket:

sportsdirect.com dark pattern

To remove it, you need to click “back to bag”, where the sneaked-in item will appear – even though it didn’t before. Finally you can remove it. Phew. If this is simplified, I can barely imagine how complex it must have been before.

Sports Direct go onto elaborate: “Many of our customers are pleased to receive the magazine with its sporting and fitness tips, celebrity interviews and product reviews and advice”. It just goes to show that if a big player like them has the audacity to keep doing this even after being named and shamed on national TV, then the change in the law is not coming a moment too soon.

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