Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns, 2023

The “Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns, 2023” issued by the Central Consumer Protection Authority under the Consumer Protection Act 2019, are designed to address deceptive practices in digital user interfaces that mislead consumers. These guidelines are comprehensive and cover a wide range of practices known as “dark patterns”​​.

Here’s a layman’s summary of the key aspects of these guidelines:

  1. Prohibition of Dark Patterns: No individual or platform is allowed to engage in any dark pattern practices​​.
  2. Conditions for Dark Patterns: Engaging in practices listed in the guidelines’ Annexure 1 is considered as engaging in dark pattern practices​​.
  3. Specific Dark Patterns and Examples:
    • False Urgency: Creating a fake sense of urgency or scarcity to push a user into making an immediate purchase. For instance, falsely indicating that only a few items are left or creating time-limited sale pressure​​.
    • Basket Sneaking: Adding additional items or services to a user’s cart at checkout without their consent, increasing the total payable amount​​.
    • Confirm Shaming: Using language or media to evoke fear, shame, or guilt to manipulate the user into purchasing a product or service or continuing a subscription​​.
    • Forced Action: Making a user take actions like buying additional goods, subscribing to unrelated services, or sharing personal information against their original intent​​.
    • Subscription Trap: Making cancellation of paid subscriptions difficult or confusing, hiding cancellation options, or requiring payment details for a free subscription​​.
    • Interface Interference: Manipulating design elements to highlight certain information while obscuring other relevant details, leading users to take unintended actions​​.
    • Bait and Switch: Advertising one outcome but delivering another, like showing a product as available and then revealing it’s out of stock at checkout​​.
    • Drip Pricing: Not disclosing full price details upfront or charging more than the disclosed price at checkout​​.
    • Disguised Advertisement: Masking advertisements as other types of content like user-generated content or articles to trick users into clicking on them​​.
    • Nagging: Repeatedly disturbing and annoying users with requests or information to push for a transaction​​.
    • Trick Question: Using confusing language or phrasing to mislead users into taking specific actions​​.
    • SaaS Billing: Using software as a service (SaaS) model to generate recurring payments from consumers in a hidden or unclear manner​​.
    • Rogue Malwares: Misleading users into believing their computer is infected and tricking them into paying for fake malware removal​​.

These guidelines are crucial for protecting consumer rights in the digital marketplace, ensuring transparency and fairness in online transactions and interactions.

Credits: Press Information Bureau, New Delhi, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, GOI

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