Chapter 24: Harm to the marketplace

A healthy marketplace allows consumers to freely choose from a range of competitors and pick the services or products they feel are best suited to their needs. This includes:

  • Competition: When there are multiple sellers offering similar goods and services, competition encourages them to improve their products, lower prices and innovate in order to attract consumers. Without competition, a small number of sellers can dominate the market, reducing their incentive to improve products, lower prices or innovate.1
  • Information symmetry: Consumers need to know pertinent information about the offerings on the market, so they can make an informed decision. As economist George Akerlof described in 1970, this enables buyers to distinguish good products (‘cherries’) from bad ones (‘lemons’), which thereby reduces the number of lemon providers in the marketplace because consumers choose not to use them.2
  • Consumer autonomy: Consumers need to be free to act on the information they’re given in the marketplace, and make decisions based on their preferences, needs and financial resources without being interfered with.3

Deceptive patterns can interfere with all of the above characteristics, creating an unhealthy marketplace that can enable monopolies. Put simply, if a business uses deceptive patterns, they put themselves at an advantage over those that do not...

    Buy the book to

    Since 2010, Harry Brignull has dedicated his career to understanding and exposing the techniques that are employed to exploit users online, known as “deceptive patterns” or “dark patterns”. He is credited with coining a number of the terms that are now popularly used in this research area, and is the founder of the website He has worked as an expert witness on a number of cases, including Nichols v. Noom Inc. ($56 million settlement), and FTC v. Publishers Clearing House LLC ($18.5 million settlement). Harry is also an accomplished user experience practitioner, having worked for organisations that include Smart Pension, Spotify, Pearson, HMRC, and the Telegraph newspaper.