Government Bans Use of 'Dark Patterns' on E-Commerce Platforms; Guidelines Issued

Platforms that employ dark patterns will be liable to pay penalties as per the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, according the CCPA.

Government Bans Use of 'Dark Patterns' on E-Commerce Platforms; Guidelines Issued

Photo Credit: Reuters

The rules related to dark patterns are applicable to all platforms offering goods and services in India

  • The CCPA notified new rules related to dark patterns on November 30
  • The use of dark patterns will amount to misleading advertisement
  • Dark patterns are used to manipulate users' actions and decisions online

In order to protect consumers' interest, the government has banned use of "dark patterns" on e-commerce platforms which intend to deceive customers or manipulate their choices. A gazette notification in this regard as "Guidelines for prevention and regulation of dark patterns" was issued on November 30 by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) which is applicable to all platforms offering goods and services in India, and even advertisers and sellers.

Resorting to dark patterns will amount to misleading advertisement or unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights. The penalty will be imposed as per the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, it added.

"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," Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh told PTI.

The notified guidelines will ensure clarity in the minds of all stakeholders -- buyers, sellers, marketplaces and regulators - as to what is not acceptable as unfair trading practices, the latter being liable under the Consumer Protection Act, he added.

According to the notification, dark patterns have been defined as any practice or deceptive design pattern using user interface or user experience interactions on any platform that is designed to mislead or trick users to do something they originally did not intend or want to do, by subverting or impairing the consumer autonomy, decision making or choice.

For instance, 'basket sneaking' is a dark pattern that includes additional items such as products, services, payments to charity or donation at the time of checkout from a platform, without the consent of the user, such that the total amount payable by the user is more than the amount payable for the product or service chosen by the user.

Another dark pattern called "forced action" means forcing a user into taking an action that would require the user to buy any additional goods or subscribe or sign up for an unrelated service or share personal information in order to buy or subscribe to the product or service originally intended by the user.

Likewise, CCPA has specified 13 dark patterns to provide only as a guidance for the industry.

Initially, CCPA had identified 10 dark patterns but after the public consultation another three were included.

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