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Dark Patterns Banned on Indian E-commerce Platforms

Dark Patterns Banned on Indian E-commerce Platforms

The Indian government has taken a step to protect the rights of online consumers by prohibiting the use of “dark patterns” on e-commerce platforms. The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) released guidelines on November 30, outlining strict measures against deceptive practices employed by digital platforms, advertisers, and sellers.

What are Dark Patterns in E-commerce?

Dark patterns in e-commerce are deceptive design practices intentionally incorporated into the user interface or experience to mislead and manipulate consumers. These unethical tactics compromise user autonomy, decision-making, and choices. The recently implemented guidelines by CCPA define dark patterns as any practice using deceptive design patterns that coerce users into unintended actions, impairing their original intentions.

How Do Dark Patterns Harm Customers?

Dark patterns pose a severe threat to consumers, affecting their purchasing choices and overall online experience. For instance, ‘basket sneaking’ involves surreptitiously adding extra items or services during checkout without user consent, leading to a higher total payable amount. Another dark pattern, known as “forced action,” compels users to take actions that may involve purchasing additional goods, subscribing to unrelated services, or divulging personal information.

These tactics compromise the integrity of the consumer’s decision-making process and violate their rights, constituting unfair trade practices. The ban on dark patterns is crucial to curbing these harmful practices.

Government’s Stand

Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh highlighted the escalating use of dark patterns in digital commerce, where platforms manipulate consumer choices and behaviour. The guidelines act as a deterrent against misleading advertisements and unfair trade practices, with penalties under the Consumer Protection Act for violators.

The notification applies to all entities offering goods and services in India, including sellers and marketplaces. By explicitly defining and identifying 13 dark patterns, CCPA aims to guide the industry towards responsible and consumer-centric practices. 

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