More than 40 percent of consumers in Japan have fallen prey to deceptive web or app designs known as "dark patterns" that trick them into making choices they would not have otherwise made, according to a recent survey by a Japanese web design company.

The online survey, taken in August with 799 respondents between the ages of 18 and 69, found 46.1 percent of respondents had been swindled by dark patterns, while 68.8 percent said they had seen such designs, Concent Inc. said in late November.

A notice issued by the Consumer Affairs Agency on its website (top) and elsewhere cautions consumers about "dark patterns" on the internet in photo taken on Oct. 10, 2023 in Fukuoka. (Kyodo)

Examples include unintentionally signing up to subscription-based purchases or feeling inclined to purchase an item due to misleading "limited stock" notices.

Among seven examples of dark patterns, the most commonly experienced was site visitors being asked to register for membership when they only wanted to browse products, at 46.3 percent, followed by 43.9 percent who said important information was presented in small fonts.

A total of 40.3 percent said it had been arduous or time consuming to cancel memberships or subscriptions, while 29.2 percent said subscriptions were displayed as if they were one-time purchases.

In a multiple-choice question regarding countermeasures, 76.3 percent said consumers needed to be vigilant, 71.8 percent said legislation was required and 71.0 percent answered that companies should endeavor not to use dark patterns.

"It's important to be able to recognize dark patterns in order to avoid becoming a victim," said Miki Kawasaki, who conducted the research.

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