The Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India on Friday urged online platforms to refrain from incorporating any design or pattern in the online interface of their platform that may deceive or manipulate consumer choice and fall in the category of dark patterns.
In a letter addressed to major online platforms in India, Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh strongly advised online platforms to not engage in ‘unfair trade practices’ by incorporating dark patterns in their online interface to manipulate consumer choice and violate ‘consumer rights’ as enshrined under Section 2(9) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. “It is pertinent to note that dark patterns involve using a design and choice architecture to trick, coerce or influence consumers to make choices not in their best interest. Engaging in such deceptive and manipulative conduct by using dark patterns in online interfaces unfairly exploits consumers’ interest and constitutes ‘unfair trade practice’ under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019,” an official statement said.
Recently, regulators in other jurisdictions such as European Union, USA and UK have taken action against dark patterns involving unfair and deceptive practices in online interfaces which were found to be detrimental to consumers.
The activities which the platforms were observed to be indulging include Non-consensual enrolment in subscription programs (USA) Pressure selling using a misleading countdown clock (UK), Secretly saving credit card information and charging users without consent (USA), Putting in place a cancellation process designed to deter consumers from opting out of subscription (Norway).
Ministry also mentioned some examples of Dark Patterns used as unfair trade practices.
“False Urgency is a tactic that creates a sense of urgency or scarcity to pressure consumers into making a purchase or taking an action. Basket Sneaking is a tactic in which websites or apps use dark patterns to add additional products or services to the shopping cart without user consent. Subscription Traps are a tactic that makes it easy for consumers to sign up for a service but difficult for them to cancel it, often by hiding the cancellation option or requiring multiple steps,” an official statement said.
“Confirm Shaming involves guilt as a way to make consumers adhere. It criticizes or attacks consumers for not conforming to a particular belief or viewpoint. Forced Action involves forcing consumers into taking an action they may not want to take, such as signing up for a service in order to access content,” it added.
Nagging refers to persistent, repetitive and annoyingly constant criticism, complaints, and requests for action. Interface Interference is a tactic that involves making it difficult for consumers to take certain actions, such as cancelling a subscription or deleting an account, the statement said.
With the growing penetration of the internet and rising smartphone usage in India, consumers are increasingly choosing e-commerce as the preferred mode of shopping. In such a scenario, it is essential that online platforms do not indulge in unfair trade practices by incorporating dark patterns which result in a harmful or undesirable outcome for the consumer.
Ministry said that consumers can report instances of ‘dark patterns’ or provide feedback and report such manipulative online practices on the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) by calling ‘1915’ or through Whatsapp on 8800001915.
(This news report is published from a syndicated feed. Except for the headline, the content has not been written or edited by OpIndia staff)