CMA’s recent investigations mark the start of enforcement work targeting dark patterns

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the UK’s competition regulator, has launched an investigation into the mattress and bed brand company Emma Sleep and whether their online sales tactics have misled consumers. Specifically, the CMA are looking into Emma Sleep’s use of countdown timers and claims that discounted prices will end soon when this may not be the case and whether this is a breach of Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (SI 2008/1277) (often referred to as the “CPRs”) and consumer protection.

This marks the start of a wider programme of consumer enforcement work investigating ‘Online Choice Architecture’ aiming to tackle harmful online selling practices. Online Choice Architecture is the way in which the design of online environments affects a user’s decision-making and actions. The CMA has commented that Online Choice Architecture can be used for good, for instance:

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