European Commission finds that of 399 online shops of retail traders it analysed, 148 sites contained at least one manipulative practice.

European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said:
European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: "Our screening shows that nearly 40% of the online shopping websites rely on manipulative practices to exploit consumers' vulnerabilities or trick them." (Sean Gladwell / Getty Images)

The European Commission has said around 40 percent of the retail websites it screened were found to be manipulating consumers.

The commission analysed 399 websites and found that 148 of them contained at least one manipulative tool including fake countdown timers, web interfaces designed to lead consumers to purchases, subscriptions or other choices, and hidden information.

These tools "that are often known to push consumers into making choices that may not be in their best interest" are also called "dark patterns," the commission said Monday.

European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said: "This behavior is clearly wrong and against consumer protection."

Reynders called on national authorities to prevent these practices by strengthening their capacities.

According to the analysis, 42 websites used fake countdown timers, 54 websites directed consumers towards certain choices and 70 websites were found to be hiding important information or making it less visible.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies