EU bans pre-ticked boxes on websites

Posted: Monday 12th December 2011 in eCommerce Technology, News, Thought Leadership.

Newly approved EU legislation bans the use of “pre-ticked” boxes on shopping websites.  Under the new rules, online retailers must now disclose the total cost of a product – including any additional fees. It’s no longer possible to offer extras such as warranties or installation via pre-ticked boxes; instead, users have to actively ‘opt-in’ and accept these items. Up until now, on certain retail sites, customers may have been required to ‘untick’ boxes to avoid paying for extra services.

Good for consumers – but what about retailers?

Obviously, this move greatly increases transparency of costs and can only be good for the user. Making any applicable or optional costs as obvious as possible to users up front will reduce the number of post-purchase complaints and lead to better levels of consumer satisfaction overall.

It will also potentially reduce the average order value on ecommerce sites, as the ability to upsell the extras will be eliminated. However, it may also have the knock-on effect of increasing user trust, as consumers will know that retailers are legally obliged to show full, transparent pricing. This may help to improve conversion.

Email sign up forms

Pre-ticked boxes have long been an issue with regards to usability too, especially in relation to email sign up forms. Traditionally, the idea of “we’ll send you emails unless you specifically instruct us otherwise” (i.e. uncheck the box) was seen as a way of increasing the size of your mailing list. However, the use of ‘opt-in’ and ‘double opt-in’ techniques (where users have to confirm their email address, as well as signing up) have been shown to increase the quality of email lists and reduce user dissatisfaction.

At best, it’s annoying to be sent emails that you hadn’t realised you’d signed up to – but it costs you nothing. So, seeing the EU take a stance on this subject when it relates to inadvertent consumer spending is a welcome, albeit overdue, step.

Moving in the right direction

These new rules will help to eliminate any unintentional purchasing and create a much more transparent system. It’s a move in the right direction to giving consumers more clarity online.

However, the 27 EU nations have two years to implement the legislation. This means that, in the short term at least, customers may still feel they’re being tricked into purchasing additional products and services they don’t require.

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