Consumer’s reader: Unfair commercial practices online

Rubric: Consumer’s reader

What unfair commercial practices do we need to watch out for when we are in Internet?

We continue the section “Consumer Reader” with a publication related to the first article – WHAT IS BOUNDED RATIONALITY AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT? where we talk about bounded rationality and the most common cognitive fallacies we make as consumers.

Now we will tell about the dangers we face sometimes while shopping online or more precisely, we will address the topic of unfair commercial practices in the web.

As a result of many studies, two main categories of unfair commercial practices have been identified:

  • Misleading commercial practices – when the trader provides factually incorrect or misleading information, omits information or submits vague information.
  • Aggressive commercial practices – when the trader exerts undue influence on the consumer e.g. through intimidation, coercion and force.

The question of whether commercial practice is misleading or aggressive usually depends on the circumstances. When assessing whether it is unfair, it is always assumed that the potential customer who encounters it is the so-called ‘average user’.

Whether the commercial practice is unfair ultimately depends on whether it can get the average consumer to decide on a transaction that he would not otherwise have taken.

This is also called a “transaction test”. If it is demonstrated that, as a result of obtaining an inaccurate picture, there is a risk that the consumer will be affected inappropriately and this may lead to a wrong decision for a transaction, then such practice is unfair.

The average consumer is a “reasonably informed, cautious and observant” consumer. Among other things, he is expected not to believe everything he hears. For example, if a business advertises anti-wrinkle cream with the statement “if you take it, you will look 10 years younger!”, our average consumer is expected not to take it seriously. It is also expected to actually read the information that was provided in a clear and easy way to understand.

Unfortunately, some commercial practices are always unfair and they are on the so-called Black List.

We do not need to apply the transaction test upon them, since they should be prohibited immediately.

These practices are two types: Misleading commercial practices and aggressive commercial practices.

Examples of misleading practices are:

  • Describe a product as ‘gratis’, ‘free’ or ‘no charge’ when in fact cost are included;
  • False claim that a product is only available for a limited period or only under special conditions.

Examples of aggressive practices:

  • Creating the impression that the user has won a prize or other benefit when there is no reward or the user is being misled spending money to receive the prize;
  • The advertisement includes a direct invitation to children to buy a product or to convince their parents to buy it for them.

If you feel that you have become a victim of such a practice during online shopping, you must contact the trader and try to solve the problem in a good cooperation. Often, online stores tend to hear the problems that their customers have encountered and are ready to respond. However, if your complaint has remained unsatisfied or simply ignored, contact our ADR Centre- NAIS at

Published on 30.05.2020 Back to news