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Government cracks down on ‘dark patterns’ in e-commerce, issues guidelines to protect consumers

“Dark patterns” are techniques that are intentionally designed to deceive and mislead customers or influence their decisions.

Edited By: Om Gupta

Published: Dec 03, 2023, 10:22 AM IST

eCommerce
eCommerce

Story Highlights

  • The government has banned the use of "dark patterns" on e-commerce platforms.
  • Dark patterns are tactics designed to deceive and mislead customers.
  • The new guidelines apply to all platforms, advertisers, and sellers.

The government of India has taken a significant step towards protecting consumers. In the latest move, the government has banned the use of “dark patterns” on e-commerce platforms. Dark patterns are tactics designed to deceive and mislead customers or influence their decisions. On November 30, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) issued a gazette notification titled “Guidelines for prevention and regulation of dark patterns”. The new guidelines apply to all platforms, advertisers, and sellers offering goods and services in India.

Dark patterns are defined as design patterns or practices that use user interface or user experience interactions on any platform to trick users into taking actions they did not intend or want to take. This is done by undermining or impairing consumer autonomy, decision-making, or choice.

For instance, “basket sneaking” is a type of dark pattern where additional products, services, or donations are added to the user’s basket at checkout without their consent, resulting in a higher total amount payable. Another dark pattern, “forced action,” compels a user to take an action that requires them to purchase additional goods, subscribe to an unrelated service, or share personal information to purchase or subscribe to the product or service they originally intended to buy.

The use of dark patterns on e-commerce platforms could result in penalties under the Consumer Protection Act, as they are classified as misleading advertisements, unfair trade practices, or violations of consumer rights. Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh expressed concern about the increasing use of dark patterns in digital commerce to manipulate consumer behaviour and choices.

“In the emerging digital commerce, dark patterns are increasingly being used by the platforms to mislead the consumers by manipulating their buying choices and behaviour,” Rohit said.

The guidelines aim to provide transparency to all stakeholders, including buyers, sellers, marketplaces, and regulators, about what constitutes unfair trading practices. Those who engage in such practices will be held accountable under the Consumer Protection Act.

The CCPA has identified 13 such dark patterns as guidelines for the industry. Initially, 10 dark patterns were identified, but three more were added after public consultation.

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Author Name | Om Gupta

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