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When signing up for a service why are we sometimes required to tick a checkbox to declare consent to User Agreement or Privacy Policy as opposed to simply consenting to the terms by using the service.

Example with checkbox - Paypal enter image description here

Example without checkbox - Kickstarter enter image description here

The checkbox is a huge roadblock in UX, decreasing the conversion rate and posing a cognitive load on the user. People often forget to tick it and the website needs extra functionality to check it up, stop the user, display a warning etc. Is it required by law? If not then why are websites still using it?

  • 3
    This most definitely is legal based. The checkbox forces a user to either comply, or not comply with terms & conditions. It shows a user was aware that they were accepting these terms and conditions before using the services. Where as your later example, I'm sure could be passed off as a "oh, i didn't see it" argument. Further more, read the 2 statements, one is signing your life away, the other is just saying play nice. – Mark Apr 7 '16 at 22:46
  • Do you have any evidence that it decreases conversion? Just assumption? – medbot Apr 8 '16 at 1:15
  • @medbot just my assumption based on how many times in my live did I forget to check the box and was stopped for a minute from finishing that conversion. – daniel.sedlacek Apr 8 '16 at 6:17
  • It's also worth mentioning that EU law prohibits pre-ticked checkboxes: bbc.com/news/world-europe-15260748 Sadly, this practice isn't enforced as stringently as it ought to be. – cgarvey Apr 12 '16 at 12:07
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With all my projects the main reason is laws.

In EU, you're required by law to get the users' informed and active consent before storing or accessing any kind of personal data.

The ePrivacy directive – more specifically Article 5(3) – requires prior informed consent for storage ofor access to information stored on a user's terminal equipment.

http://ec.europa.eu/ipg/basics/legal/cookies/index_en.htm#section_2

So we can't let the user passively agree to something (by using our service...), and instead are forced to show a checkbox.

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The reason why is that by law (and its fuzzy) people have to have enough to show that they can't accidentally accept terms, usually when payment or providing personal information is involved. So if I sign up for a newsletter on Kickstarter, no big deal. But if I agree to pay $50 for a Garfield poster...a bit more consent is needed.

The reason it's fuzzy is because it isn't a law at all. According to the law, it has to be reasonable that a user/customer willfully and knowingly agree to terms and/or accept payment. That's why receipts are important (show that the information was accepted by both parties and, the second party, aka not the user, is in good faith sharing that information with the first party).

It also means that yes, drop off rates are the highest at that point. And for good reason: that's you at the checkout line, finally ready to pony up the cash. Back down now and forgo the buy, or push on and pay.

It's not legally a requirement because it's an issue of good faith. And, for that reason alone, it's best to force users to agree to certain things for their consent, even if it means they may decide against it. You may lose some users/customers, but you're also doing right by a larger number of them. And doing right by your business

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It comes down to two related things:

  1. Ownership of action
  2. Trust

The first of these is about the owner of the site wanting you to stop and notice the thing you're agreeing to, rather than just blindly agreeing. They know full well that the user probably hasn't read the terms, and is probably agreeing blindly to the T&Cs... but by forcing the user to take a deliberate "yes, I agree" step that is different from the other steps around it, they are also forcing the user to take ownership of that agreement. That user can't claim that they were tricked into agreeing.

The second is about the owner of the site wanting the user to feel like they're being told when they're taking an action which has wider consequences than just getting them to the next screen in a flow. The extra barrier to progress lets the user know they should probably pay attention before moving on. Again, they usually don't, but now it's on them.

So, to sum up:

That checkbox is a very short conversation between user and owner, in which the owner says "Just to be clear, you're agreeing to some stuff you probably haven't read, and that's on you" and the user is saying "sure". Without it, it's easy for the user to feel hoodwinked and hard for the owner to defend against that.

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