The Government Bans Dark Patterns on E-commerce Platforms to Protect Consumers

In a significant move to safeguard the interests of consumers, the government of India has banned the use of “dark patterns” on e-commerce platforms. The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) issued a gazette notification titled “Guidelines for prevention and regulation of dark patterns” on November 30. These guidelines apply to all platforms that offer goods and services in India, including advertisers and sellers. The use of dark patterns, which aim to deceive customers or manipulate their choices, will be considered a violation of consumer rights, misleading advertisement, or an unfair trade practice. Violators will be subjected to penalties under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act.

Dark patterns are deceptive design practices that employ user interface or user experience interactions on platforms with the intention of misleading or manipulating users into performing actions they did not intend or want to do. Such practices undermine consumer autonomy, decision-making, and freedom of choice. The government’s decision to regulate and prevent dark patterns aims to ensure clarity for all stakeholders, including buyers, sellers, marketplaces, and regulators, about what constitutes unfair trading practices.

The guidelines explicitly identify several types of dark patterns to provide a comprehensive understanding to the industry. One such dark pattern is “basket sneaking,” which involves adding additional items, such as products, services, or charitable donations, to a user’s shopping cart at the checkout stage without their consent. This manipulation results in the user paying more than the intended amount for the selected product or service.

Another dark pattern highlighted in the guidelines is “forced action.” This practice compels users to take actions leading to the purchase of additional goods, subscribing to unrelated services, or sharing personal information, which are not originally intended by the user. These tactics deceive users into making purchases they had no intention of making in the first place.

By specifying and regulating dark patterns, the CCPA aims to prevent e-commerce platforms from engaging in unfair trade practices that exploit consumer vulnerabilities. The notified guidelines serve as a deterrent against manipulative tactics employed by platforms to influence consumer behavior and choices. They will play a crucial role in promoting transparency, trust, and ethical business practices in the emerging digital commerce landscape.

The government’s ban on dark patterns on e-commerce platforms marks a proactive step towards protecting consumers’ rights and interests. These guidelines ensure that platforms and advertisers are accountable for their actions by clearly defining what constitutes deceptive practices. By curbing the use of dark patterns, the government aims to create an environment where consumers can make informed decisions without being influenced or manipulated. This move will enhance fairness, honesty, and consumer empowerment in India’s digital marketplace.

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