WARNING: Watch out for Pre-ticked Boxes When Purchasing Online

In a statement last Tuesday (June 19), the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) cautioned the public to look out for pre-ticked boxes when processing a transaction for purchases online.

According to the consumer watchdog, these boxes are used by businesses to gain consent from their consumers for additional services or purchases (goods or other products), or to send out marketing content and updates.

What consumers may not realize when they fail to uncheck these boxes, is that they will be required to make a separate request if they choose to decline or no longer wish to receive offers, goods and services specified in the pre-selected options.

By Khushnood7 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

[Advisory] Watch Out for Pre-Ticked Boxes When Purchasing Online

Case in point, earlier this year, CASE received several complaints regarding Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) auto-inclusion of travel insurance. Many travellers shared that they are likely to overlook this kind of detail, and may end up paying for travel insurance which they did not specifically ask for or wish to have.

After CASE had made a collective report of such complaints to SIA, the company started to review their policies and decided to scrap out the auto-inclusion of the travel insurance feature from their website and instead, modified it as an optional feature, for the purpose of transparency and better documentation.

CASE had also reached out to other flight carriers such as Jetstar and Scoot to raise this issue. Scoot had modified its pre-selection of travel insurance to an optional feature starting May 31 while Jetstar, however, declined to make a similar modification, justifying that each of the pre-selected items have been designed to clearly draw the attention of customers through their unique booking flow. However, this is clearly unacceptable, according to CASE.

According to the consumer watchdog, it is unethical for businesses to use pre-ticked boxes because this does not freely allow consumers to give their consent in the transaction. Furthermore, this practice, if left unchecked, may set a standard for other industries to follow or continue doing.

While the matter had already been raised to relevant authorities for further study, CASE warns all consumers to review every transaction and to watch out for pre-ticked boxes and make sure that they unselect anything that they do not wish to avail or purchase.

As a precaution, CASE offers this simple advice: Thoroughly review every booking or transaction before checking out or making any final payment.