Law Section

The Law Section develops legal answers to the challenges of steering consumers through dark patterns. It is based at the German Research Institute for Public Administration (FÖV).

Starting Point

The law, such as consumer protection, data protection, and competition law, is not sufficiently prepared for the phenomenon of dark patterns. It is based on the image of a rational consumer and operates mainly on an informative level.
The effect of dark patterns can be described using concepts from economics, behavioral economics, and research on the design of human-computer interaction (HCI).
The law has difficulties absorbing this knowledge. Behavioral science and design research, in particular, do not correspond to the current ideal of the consumer.

Project Goal

The Law Section shows how the law currently reacts to dark patterns. Various regulatory instruments such as data protection, consumer protection, and competition law, which this section is researching on, are available for this purpose. Depending on the dark patterns' target group, further areas of law, e.g. child and youth protection law, become relevant.
Building on these findings, this part of the project develops regulatory proposals that can meet the challenge of steering consumer behavior. The central question is how a consumer protection law, which more readily acknowledges the "bounded rational consumers", can offer more effective protection against dark patterns and thereby both, strengthen autonomy and enforce regulatory goals. The Law Section researches the framework conditions on that matter.
If a Dark Pattern Detection App (find out more) is to generate personalized reactions, this, in turn, raises legal questions. Accordingly, this project also highlights relevant issues from a data protection and discrimination or competition law perspective.