Blank checks

We're all familiar with online prompts asking us to tick 'Yes' or 'No' boxes. Do we want someone to send us emails about products? Do we want to receive a monthly newsletter? We may need to click on a 'Yes' or 'No' box.

The answer, in any case, is normally 'No'. And we're normally in a hurry to get on with it and get rid of these irritating obstacles, which may mean us quickly making a decision and moving on. But what if you have to remove your agreement before you have even given it?

Someone got in touch with us to tell us about their experience with the Berriewood Wholesale Pet Supplies website. They describe the prompt they received, while ordering from the website, as 'clearly designed to confuse'. The prompt is:

"If you would not like to be notified of future offers, uncheck this box."

Not: "If you would like to be notified of future offers, check this box."

This means that by doing nothing, you will receive 'future offers'. So, rather than opting in to something, you have already opted in and need to opt out.

This is clearly a bit naughty. Consumers need clear and unambiguous prompts, particularly when it comes to marketing products. There should be no automatic opting in to offers: the choice to opt in or out should be a basic option. Nothing should be 'ticked' for consumers without their say so. Being given the chance to opt out, and opting in if you do nothing, is not the same as having the option to opt in or out.

There seems to be more and more sneakiness when it comes to online prompts. No, we don't want to click something to opt out of it. Yes, we do want the option to quickly avoid aggressive marketing campaigns.

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