A New Era of Digital Consumer Protection: India’s Fight Against Dark Patterns

The Indian government has taken a significant step to protect consumer interests in the digital marketplace by banning the use of “dark patterns” on e-commerce platforms. This move is aimed at combating deceptive practices that manipulate consumer choices and behavior.

Definition and Purpose of the Ban

  • What are Dark Patterns?: Dark patterns are defined as any deceptive design or practice using user interface or user experience interactions on digital platforms that mislead or trick users into actions they did not intend to take, thereby impairing their autonomy and decision-making​​.
  • Objective: The ban is aimed at preventing these platforms from deceiving customers or manipulating their choices, ultimately safeguarding consumer interests​​.

Legal Framework and Enforcement

  • Gazette Notification: The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) issued a gazette notification titled “Guidelines for prevention and regulation of dark patterns” on November 30, 2023. This is applicable to all platforms offering goods and services in India, including advertisers and sellers​​.
  • Consumer Protection Act: Utilizing dark patterns will be considered a misleading advertisement or unfair trade practice, violating consumer rights under the Consumer Protection Act. Penalties will be imposed as per the provisions of this Act​​.

Impact and Scope

  • Scope: The guidelines are comprehensive and apply to all stakeholders in the digital commerce ecosystem, including buyers, sellers, marketplaces, and regulators​​.
  • Emerging Digital Commerce Concerns: The Consumer Affairs Secretary, Rohit Kumar Singh, highlighted that dark patterns are increasingly being used in digital commerce to mislead consumers by manipulating their buying choices and behavior​​.
  • Examples of Dark Patterns: The notification mentions specific types of dark patterns. For example, ‘basket sneaking’, which involves adding additional items or services at checkout without user consent, and “forced action”, which compels users to take actions like buying additional goods or sharing personal information unintentionally​​.
  • Guidance for Industry: CCPA has specified 13 dark patterns to provide guidance for the industry. This number was finalized after public consultation and initially included 10 patterns​​.

This ban represents a significant step in consumer protection in the digital age. By clearly defining what constitutes unfair and deceptive practices and setting forth guidelines for prevention, the Indian government is ensuring a more transparent and fair digital marketplace. The move is expected to bring clarity to all parties involved and establish a standard for acceptable practices in online commerce.



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