Government puts ban on e-commerce firms from using dark patterns
The government has banned the use of "dark patterns"-purposefully designed by e-commerce and all other online platforms while selling goods and services. These patterns manipulate customers and nudge them into signing up for or purchasing things they didn't mean to or lure them to buy a more expensive product. The government has notified resorting to this as an "unfair trading practice".
Under the Consumer Protection Act, offenders can face fines and penal action from the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) and they may also face trials in the consumer commissions.
CCPA in a gazette notification named "Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns" has defined "dark patterns" 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.
The guidelines that have legal backing will apply to all platforms systematically offering goods or services, advertisers and sellers. "No person, including any platform, shall engage in any dark pattern practice," the notification issued by the CCPA Chief Commissioner Nidhi Khare said.
Union Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said, "These guidelines would help both e-commerce platforms and consumers clearly understand as to what exactly would be considered as unfair trading practices in this regard."
A senior executive of an e-commerce firm said the rules need to be fine-tuned. "At present, the guidelines are not very precise and can be open to multiple interpretations," he said. Another industry executive said they don't think the rules will lead to any structural difference in the way they operate.
The ministry has specified 13 deceptive practices to be treated as 'dark patterns'. These include creating false urgency by creating an artificial sense of scarcity; basket sneaking, where the inclusion of additional items such that the total amount payable by the user is more than the amount payable for the product as well as subscription trap.
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