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Centre brings guidelines to regulate 'dark patterns' in e-commerce

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Centre brings guidelines to regulate dark patterns in e-commerce
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New Delhi: The Union government has issued guidelines for the prevention and regulation of dark patterns that deceive and tempt or force consumers to buy products or services online. The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), the top consumer watchdog in the country, notified the guidelines in the official Gazette on November 30, reports The Indian Express.

The issued notification defines dark patterns as "any practices or deceptive design pattern using user interface or user experience interactions on any platform that is designed to mislead or trick users into doing 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."

The guidelines list 11 specific dark patterns. They are false urgency, basket sneaking, confirm shaming, forced action, subscription trap, interface interference, bait and switch, drip pricing, disguise advertisement, nagging, trick questions, SaaS billing, and rogue malware.

'False urgency' falsely states that there is a sense of urgency or scarcity in the product or service. 'Basket sneaking' means the inclusion of additional items such as products, services, payments to charity or donations at the time of checkout from a platform without the consent of the user

'Confirm shaming' means using a phrase, video, audio or any other means to create a sense of fear or shame, ridicule or guilt in the mind of the user so as to nudge the user to act in a certain way that results in the user purchasing a product or service. This also includes continuing a subscription for a service.

'Forced action' means forcing a user into taking an action that would require the user to buy any additional goods, subscribe or sign up for an unrelated service, or share personal information in order to buy or subscribe to the product or service originally intended by the user.

"Subscription trap" means the process of- (i) making cancellation of a paid subscription impossible or a complex and lengthy process, (ii) hiding the cancellation option for a subscription, or (iii) forcing a user to provide payment details or authorization for auto debits for availing a free subscription; or (iv) making the instructions related to cancellation of subscription ambiguous, latent, confusing, cumbersome.

Interface interference" means a design element that manipulates the user interface in ways that (a) highlights certain specific information and (b) obscures other relevant information relative to the other information to misdirect a user from taking action as desired. "Bait and switch" means the practice of advertising a particular outcome based on the user's action but deceptively serving an alternate outcome.

"Drip pricing" means a practice whereby-

(i) elements of prices are not revealed upfront or are revealed surreptitiously within the user experience or

(ii) revealing the price post-confirmation of purchase, i.e. charging an amount higher than the amount disclosed at the time of checkout or


(iii) a product or service is advertised as free without appropriate disclosure of the fact that the continuation of use requires in-app purchase or

(iv) a user is prevented from availing a service which is already paid for unless something additional is purchased.

"Disguised advertisement" means a practice of posing masking advertisements as other types of content, such as user-generated content, new articles or false advertisements, which are designed to blend in with the rest of an interface in order to trick customers into clicking on them

"Nagging" means a dark pattern practice due to which a user is disrupted and annoyed by repeated and persistent interactions, in the form of requests, information, options, or interruptions, to effectuate a transaction and make some commercial gains, unless specifically permitted by the user.

"Trick Question" means the deliberate use of confusing or vague language like confusing wording, double negatives, or other similar tricks in order to misguide or misdirect a user from taking a desired action or leading the consumer to take a specific response or action.

"Saas billing" refers to the process of generating and collecting payments from consumers on a recurring basis in a software as a service (SaaS) business model by exploiting positive acquisition loops in recurring subscriptions to get money from users as surreptitiously as possible.

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TAGS:business newse commercedark patterns
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