December 12, 2023
On November 30, 2023, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), in exercise of its powers under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, issued Guidelines for the Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns, 2023 (hereinafter referred to as ‘Guidelines’). The Guidelines were issued with the objective of protecting consumers from manipulation and misleading tactics used by advertisers and sellers in the online sphere. These Guidelines impose a ban on the use of “dark patterns” on all e-commerce platforms operating in India, which includes websites, mobile apps, and sellers. Further, these prohibit use of dark patterns in a form that aims to trick users into making unintended decisions. The Guidelines apply to
Prior to notifying the Guidelines, the Indian Ministry of Consumer Affairs (in September, 2023) had released draft guidelines for the prevention and regulation of dark patterns for public consultation. The draft guidelines identified and banned the use of ten distinctive types of specific dark patterns (discussed here. Under the scope of the recently notified Guidelines, thirteen types of specific dark patterns are now identified and regulated. Further, the new Guidelines have been updated and made consistent with the Guidelines for Online Deceptive Design Patterns in Advertising issued by the ASCI in June 2023 (which are separately discussed here.
Under the new Guidelines, “dark patterns” are defined 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, by subverting or impairing the consumer autonomy, decision making or choice, amounting to a misleading advertisement or unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights.”
Beyond the initial ten specific dark patterns (viz. false urgency, basket sneaking, confirm shaming, forced action, subscription trap, interface interference, bait and switch, drip pricing, disguised advertisement, and nagging) that were identified by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs in the draft guidelines released earlier, the new Guidelines primarily add three new “dark patterns”. The additional dark patterns are termed ‘Trick Questions’, ‘SaaS Billing’, and ‘Rogue Malware’, and are described in further detail herein below:
Since the new Guidelines against "dark patterns" are now in force, all online platforms, sellers, and advertisers must implement mechanisms to ensure their user interfaces are free from such deceptive practices, particularly, the specific dark patterns identified thereunder. Moving forward, thereby all relevant stakeholders must actively review their practices and take swift action to rectify and remove any use of identified and perceived dark patterns and employ safeguards to protect the interests of the user/consumer in India.
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