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How to Improve Consumers’ Reading Rates, Understanding, and Retention of Legal Information Online. Insights from a Behavioral Experiment

Alexander J. Wulf and Ognyan Seizov

Past research has shown that information notices online often fail to inform consumers well, even if transparency- enhancing measures are implemented. However, the studies in question have employed research designs that were restricted to pre-contract conclusion scenarios and ad hoc, text-only attempts at disclosure optimization. Our study makes two novel contributions: First, we also tested the effectiveness of disclosures in the post-contract conclusion scenario, i.e., in situations where a consumer has a dispute with a business. We argue that this is a more realistic instance of the actual use of disclosures because the consumer has an incentive to obtain information about his or her rights and obligations. Second, we used disclosure optimization techniques that go beyond text-only edits, utilizing many more of the Internet’s information presentation capabilities. We show that under these conditions, optimization attempts are successful in improving reading rates, retention, consumer understanding, and usability of disclosures.