The Irish consumer watchdog has taken part in an EU-wide online sweep to identify the use of 'dark patterns' on websites.

'Dark patterns' is a term used to describe manipulative trading practices which push consumers to make choices they might not otherwise make.

As part of the operation, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) inspected the Irish websites of 16 well-known high street retailers.

The CCPC said that no clear infringements were identified among the Irish traders reviewed and that it will continue to monitor online retailers to ensure they adhere to the law.

399 sweeps were undertaken across the EU focussing on traders selling items such as clothing, electronic goods, household equipment, cosmetics and food.

Inspectors looked for features such as fake countdown timers which are designed to create a sense of urgency by falsely presenting an offer as time limited.

They focussed on false hierarchy which encourages customers to click on the trader’s preferred options by making them more prominent through visual design, colours or language.

Inspectors also investigated the hiding of information about products or services through the use of small fonts or the placing of information in less prominent sections of websites.

"It’s vital that consumers can make informed decisions about the products they buy," said Kevin O’Brien, Member of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

"Brands and traders should be aware that dark patterns, such as those identified during these EU-wide sweeps, are not acceptable and consumer protection legislation applies," Mr O'Brien added.