Elderly woman hit with recurring subscription after asking voice assistant to say the Hail Mary

An old lady in England got a voice assistant as a gift. A devout Catholic, she asked it to say the Hail Mary. Delighted when it did so, she made it a daily habit.

And Amazon was charging her for it, writes Patrick Collinson, her son. She had "unwittingly ordered" a subscription for an app that charges £2 a month to play a recording of the Hail Mary.

"Thank goodness she didn't ask Alexa to say the Rosary," my sister joked, referring to the set of prayers that includes 53 Hail Marys.

But there is a serious point here. Digital voice assistants, such as those from Amazon and Google, are now in millions of UK homes. Vulnerable consumers including children and the non-computer-savvy can inadvertently enter into premium subscriptions simply by saying yes

Patrick's mother fell victim to a dark pattern, "a user interface carefully crafted to trick users into signing up for recurring bills". When challenged by Patrick, Amazon simply explained the dark pattern to him.

"For purchases by voice, customers can buy content by saying yes to a product offer message, generated when a customer requests the product directly or when the customer responds positively to a proactive suggestion within the applicable skill."

Remember: everything you say to the Shit Genie signs a contract you haven't read.