Amazon with a fine from the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection. The company misled customers

Luc Williams

The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) imposed a fine of PLN 31.85 million on Amazon EU SARL for violating the collective interests of consumers and misleading consumers as to the moment of conclusion of the sales contract, product availability, delivery dates and consumer rights regarding the “Delivery Guarantee” service , the Office reported.

The decision regarding Amazon EU SARL, which is one of the entrepreneurs selling on the platform, is not final, the company may appeal to the court. The Office received signals indicating irregularities in the provision of services on the website – the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection received complaints from consumers who did not receive paid orders. False information about product availability and delivery dates – these are questionable practices, classified as the so-called dark patterns, the release said.

“Delivery guarantee”

The Office pointed out that Amazon offers a “Delivery Guarantee”, which means that the product is supposed to reach the consumer within a specified time, and if this does not happen, the consumer can ask for a refund for the delivery. However, consumers do not receive information about the rules of this service before placing an order. They are only available at the order summary stage, if the consumer decides to read the subsequent links specifying delivery details. If he does not do this, he may not be aware of his rights and may not apply for or receive a refund if there is a delay in shipment. Information about the “Delivery Guarantee” is also not included in the confirmations received by the consumer.

“The use of sales platforms is becoming more and more popular among consumers. They choose shopping on the platform because, on the one hand, it allows access to many different offers in one place, and on the other hand, they trust the providers of recognizable platforms. The average consumer has the right to assume that the offered entrepreneurs' purchase options, availability and delivery times are not misleading. They should not be forced to take additional actions to check the credibility of the offered functionalities or presented information. In the decision issued against Amazon, we questioned misleading consumers, including practices classified as so-called dark patterns, i.e. putting pressure on consumers by displaying a time counter in which the order should be placed, despite the lack of a guarantee of delivery within this time,” said Tomasz Chróstny, president of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection, quoted in the release.

“Information about product availability and fast shipping is very valuable to consumers and for many people it may be the main reason why they make a purchase decision. However, such information cannot be a lure. If the entrepreneur provides a specific delivery date, he or she must meet it. This practice by Amazon is classified as so-called dark patterns because it uses pressure to make the consumer order the product as soon as possible,” he added.

According to the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection, a consumer who ordered a product on the platform and paid for it, in many cases he may not have received it. This is confirmed by signals from consumers and complaints submitted to the entrepreneur. For example, as established during the proceedings, the company repeatedly canceled orders placed for popular e-book readers.

“According to the challenged practice, placing an order and receiving its confirmation is not tantamount to concluding a sales contract. It is only an offer to purchase the product, which is not binding on the company. Even after paying for the goods, Amazon is not obliged to deliver them – it may cancel order. For Amazon, the conclusion of a sales contract is only information about the actual shipment and this, according to the entrepreneur, is the right moment of purchasing the goods. Information about this is included in the terms of sale and at the last stage of purchases on the platform, but it may be difficult to access – it is written in gray font on a white background, at the very bottom of the page. However, the consumer sees slogans suggesting that by ordering he or she is concluding a contract: 'Buy now' or 'Proceed to checkout'. Amazon thus misleads consumers as to the moment of concluding the contract. sales. For many people, this can also have negative consequences: the consumer does not receive the product, so he cannot use it, he loses the opportunity to purchase at an attractive price that may no longer apply, and his money is frozen until he returns it. According to consumer complaints, information about the cancellation of an order may be provided long after it was placed – in the case of cancellation of orders for e-book readers, it was a month,” we read further in the message.

Consumers were misled

Consumers were misled by false information about product availability and delivery times. This is an illegal practice of dark patterns. When placing orders, a counter may be visible to indicate when the product will reach the consumer, provided the consumer places the order within a specified time. Some products also display the number of available pieces (e.g. number of available pieces: 2; “Order within 2 hours 38 minutes.”). The information provided in this way puts pressure on the consumer to place an order as soon as possible to guarantee that he will receive the product. As the proceedings showed, Amazon does not meet these deadlines for some orders. The shipment of some products is not possible or may be delayed due to, for example, the fact that they are not in stock. Amazon treats the data it provides on availability and shipping date as indicative, but the way it is presented does not indicate this. Consumers can only learn about this in the terms of sale on the platform, it is also stated in the material.



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