In a significant move to safeguard consumer interests, the government has implemented a ban on the use of “dark patterns” on e-commerce platforms. These deceptive tactics, designed to mislead customers or manipulate their choices, will now face strict regulations. The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) issued a gazette notification titled “Guidelines for prevention and regulation of dark patterns” on November 30. This directive is applicable to all platforms offering goods and services in India, including advertisers and sellers.
Consumer Protection Measures:
The government emphasizes the importance of protecting consumers from misleading advertisements, unfair trade practices, and violations of consumer rights. The penalties for resorting to dark patterns will align with the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act. Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh highlighted the increasing use of dark patterns in digital commerce to manipulate consumer buying choices and behavior.
The recently notified guidelines aim to provide clarity to all stakeholders, including buyers, sellers, marketplaces, and regulators, regarding what constitutes unacceptable unfair trading practices. Singh emphasized that these practices are liable under the Consumer Protection Act, reinforcing the commitment to ensuring fair and transparent dealings in the digital commerce landscape.
Defining Dark Patterns:
The guidelines define dark patterns as any deceptive design or practice using user interface or user experience interactions on platforms. These practices are specifically designed to mislead or trick users into actions they did not originally intend or want, thereby compromising consumer autonomy, decision-making, or choice.
Two examples highlighted in the guidelines shed light on common dark patterns. “Basket sneaking” involves adding additional items, such as products, services, or charitable donations, at the checkout without the user’s explicit consent. This results in the user being charged more than the originally intended amount for the chosen product or service.
Another dark pattern, known as “forced action,” compels users to take actions that may require purchasing additional goods, subscribing to unrelated services, or sharing personal information. This coercion is employed to manipulate users into actions they did not initially intend when buying or subscribing to a product or service.
The ban on dark patterns is a pivotal step in ensuring a fair and transparent digital commerce environment. By defining, preventing, and regulating these deceptive practices, the government aims to uphold consumer rights, protect autonomy, and foster trust in e-commerce platforms. These guidelines serve as a crucial tool in curbing unfair trade practices and promoting ethical conduct within the rapidly evolving digital marketplace.