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Amazon’s sales terms and delivery ‘dark patterns’ face probe in Poland • TechCrunch



If you’ve ever made an Amazon order with a particular seller because the estimated delivery for the item appears to match when you need it, only to be frustrated when a different (later) delivery estimate appears after you’ve completed the payment process, this action by Poland’s competition and consumer watchdog may be of interest: It’s accusing Amazon of misleading consumers over delivery times, product availability, the sales contract and their consumer rights.

The UOKiK is acting on complaints into the ecommerce giant’s practices which it’s been investigating since September 2021. It’s now taken the step of publicly accusing Amazon of misleading consumers — and will proceed to investigate the charges laid out.

If it confirms its suspicion that Amazon is breaching consumer protection rules, the tech giant could face a fine of up to 10% of its local turnover.

Commenting in a statement — which we’ve translated from Polish using machine translation — the UOKiK’s president, Tomasz Chróstny, said:

Consumers make purchasing decisions under the influence of various factors. In addition to the price, it is important that the product arrives within the expected time, and when Amazon suggest’s an offer, they can be convinced that the store will provide it. They have the right to rely on the declarations provided to them on the website and assume that the available functions are not misleading. If consumers knew that placing an order is not yet a purchase, and that the availability of products and the delivery time provided are only estimates, they might not use the services of [Amazon].

The UOKiK’s investigations so far have found Amazon does not treat the placing of an order as a sales contract, despite emailing consumers a confirmation of their order — which shoppers may assume is the conclusion of the sales contract. Instead, Amazon’s terms specify the moment of shipment as the binding sales contract — however the regulator also found the company is not clearly communicating this salient detail to consumers.

In a press release about the proceeding, the UOKiK points out the visual contrast between brightly coloured “Buy now” and “Proceed to checkout” buttons which Amazon displays to nudge consumers to place a order — and the small print provision in its terms of sale stipulating that the sales contract is not actually concluded until the product ships.

Amazon does also show this small print to consumers at the last stage of the purchasing process — but it does this “using a gray font on a white background and placing it at the very bottom of the page, which may require you to scroll down the screen” — meaning it is “hard” to read, in the UOKiK’s view.  

“What really catches the attention of consumers is the purchase-and-contractual “Buy Now” (on the product page) or “Proceed to checkout” (after adding to cart) [buttons] highlighted in bright colors,” the UOKiK writes. “In the opinion of the president of the Office, such wording may suggest that when ordering a product, it is purchased, and the transaction takes place immediately upon payment for the goods.”

So, in other words, Amazon is deploying a classic piece of dark pattern design — which appears to work against consumers’ rights by furthering Amazon’s own commercial interests in maximising orders but keeping its contractual obligations lagging behind consumers’ payments for the goods.

Furthermore, the regulator found that information shown to consumers on Amazon’s platform — regarding product availability and delivery dates — “may not be true”.

“When placing an order, consumers are convinced that they have purchased the product and that the seller is in possession of it. Meanwhile, products marked as available, or those with even a certain number of pieces, may in fact not be in stock or their shipment may be impossible to complete,” it notes in its press release. “Similarly, the times indicated in the delivery messages — on a given day, before a given date, countdown “order within 2 hours 34 minutes” — are indicative. However, consumers do not have the opportunity to find out about this at the stage of placing an order without reading the terms of sale of the website. Only there is information about the estimated nature of the data provided.”

The watchdog is also concerned consumers are not being properly informed about their rights in connection with Amazon’s “Delivery Guarantee” offer — a feature the platform offers for select products and where the delivery date is presented along with information on when the consumer should place the order (i.e. to receive it by the presented date).

If there is a delay to such an order the shopper can contact Amazon to get a refund of any delivery costs. However the UOKiK found information about this consumer right is only shown at the checkout summary stage — or if a user actively clicks through on subsequent links specifying delivery details.

Furthermore, it notes that Amazon does not include information about this right to get a refund in the confirmations it sends them regarding a “Delivery Guarantee” offer order. And if consumers are not informed of their rights they may not know they can apply for a refund — and so may not get what they’re owed.

Amazon was contacted for a response to the UOKiK’s proceeding.

This is not the first time the ecommerce behemoth has faced pushback in Europe over its use of dark patterns to manipulate users of its platform.

Last summer, Amazon agreed to simplify the process required for cancelling its Prime membership subscription service across ecommerce sites it operates in the European Union following a series of complaints from regional consumer protection groups.

The summer before that it was also hit with a whopping fine — of close to a billion dollars — for breaches of the EU’s data protection rules by processing customer data for targeted advertising.

In recent years, the European Commission also laid out a series of antitrust charges against the platform — going on to settle one that had probed its use of merchants’ data, and another related to which sellers’ offers get displayed in a featured “Buy Box”, at the end of last year after the tech giant made commitments to change its practices around use of third party data and how it presents the Buy Box. Although Amazon managed to dodge a fine in this instance (but it could still face one of up to 10% of its global turnover if it’s found to be breaching these commitments which remain enforceable for seven years).

The ecommerce giant has also faced competition enforcement in Italy — where it was fined $1.3BN at the end of 2021 over similar charges to those the European Commission subsequently investigated.

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Microsoft fixes reversible screenshot vulnerability on Windows



Microsoft has pushed an update to fix a screenshot editing vulnerability in Windows 10 and 11, as spotted earlier by Bleeping Computer. The security flaw, dubbed the “aCropalypse,” could let bad actors recover the edited portions of screenshots, potentially revealing personal information that had been cropped out or concealed.

According to Microsoft, the issue (CVE-2023-28303) affects both the Snip & Sketch app on Windows 10 and the Snipping Tool on Windows 11. However, it only applies to images created in a very specific set of steps. That includes those that have been taken, saved, edited, and then saved over the original file, as well as the ones opened in the Snipping Tool, edited, and then saved to the same location. It doesn’t have any effect on the screenshots modified before saving them and also doesn’t impact screenshots that had been copied and pasted to, say, the body of an email or document.

Microsoft first learned of the issue earlier this week. That’s when Chris Blume, the chair of the working group for the PNG image format, brought it to the attention of David Buchanan and Simon Aarons — the same security researchers who discovered the aCropalypse vulnerability affecting the Google Pixel’s Markup tool. This, similarly, lets hackers reverse the changes made to screenshots, making it possible to reveal the personal information in an image that someone thought they were hiding, whether by cropping it out or scribbling over it.

You can download the latest updates for the affected apps on Windows by heading to the Microsoft Store, clicking Library, and then choosing Get updates. If you have automatic updates enabled, you should notice that the Snipping Tool should be set to version 10.2008.3001.0, while the Snip & Sketch tool will be version 11.2302.20.0. Just like the patch Google issued, Microsoft’s change won’t update the edited screenshots that had already been posted online, though, which could potentially leave thousands of screenshots on the web that bad actors can exploit.

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Microsoft reportedly orders AI chatbot rivals to stop using Bing’s search data



Microsoft doesn’t want its rivals to use Bing’s search index to power their AI chatbots, according to a report from Bloomberg. The company reportedly told two unnamed Bing-powered search engines that it will restrict them from accessing Microsoft’s search data altogether if they continue using it with their AI tools.

As noted by Bloomberg, Microsoft licenses out Bing’s search data to several search engines, including DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, and the AI search engine While DuckDuckGo, for example, uses a combination of Bing and its own web crawler to provide search results, and Neeva also pull some of their results from Bing, helping to conserve some of the time and resources that come along with crawling the entire web.

Microsoft apparently draws the line at using Bing’s search index as fodder for AI chatbots, however. Sources close to the situation tell Bloomberg that Microsoft believes using Bing’s data in this way is a violation of its contract, and that it may choose to terminate its agreements with the search engines accused of misusing this information.

“We’ve been in touch with partners who are out of compliance as we continue to consistently enforce our terms across the board,” Microsoft tells Bloomberg. “We’ll continue to work with them directly and provide any information needed to find a path forward.” It’s unclear whether Microsoft took action against any search engines, and the company didn’t immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment.

With more companies like Google introducing their takes on OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot, Microsoft likely wants to make its own search data exclusive to Bing’s chatbot. The tool is already powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4, the latest and most powerful version of the company’s language model, and is capable of answering various questions, creating summaries, generating code, writing social media posts, and more.

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Just 7 days until the TC Early Stage early bird flies away



Budget-minded entrepreneurs and early-stage startup founders take heed — this is no time to procrastinate. We have only 7 days left of early-bird pricing to TechCrunch Early Stage 2023 in Boston on April 20.

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During this one-day startup bootcamp, you’ll learn about legal issues, fundraising, marketing, growth, product-market fit, pitching, recruiting and more. We’re talking more than 40 highly engaging presentations, workshops and roundtables with interactive Q&As and plenty of time for networking.

Here are just a few examples of the topics we have on tap. You’ll find plenty more listed in the event agenda.

How to Tell Your TAM: Dayna Grayson from Construct Capital invests in the rebuilding of the most foundational and broken industries of our economy. Industries such as manufacturing and logistics, among others, that formed in an analog world have been neglected by advanced technology. Dayna will talk about how, beyond the idea, founders can pitch investors on their TAM, including how they will wedge into the market and how they will eventually disrupt it.

How to Think About Accelerators and Incubators: Founders often hear they should get involved with an incubator or accelerator, but when is the “right” time for early-stage founders to apply to these types of startup support ecosystems, and how can they best engage if accepted? In this talk, Harvard Innovation Labs executive director Matt Segneri will cover everything from the types of incubators and accelerators available to early-stage founders, to what startups should consider before applying, and tips for getting the most out of these ecosystems.

How to Raise Outside of SV in a Down Market: Silicon Valley’s funding market tends to be more immune to macroeconomic conditions than elsewhere in the world. So how do you raise outside the Valley bubble? General Catalyst’s Mark Crane has ample experience on both the founder and VC side from all over Europe, as well as a firm understanding of the funding landscape in the northeastern U.S., so he’ll give practical advice on how to stay alive and thrive.

At TechCrunch Early Stage you’ll walk away with a deeper working understanding of topics and skills that are essential to startup success. Founders save $200 with an early-bird founder ticket — college students pay just $99!

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