India is witnessing an unprecedented surge in e-commerce, but alongside this growth, a disturbing trend has emerged. Some online retail companies are resorting to deceptive practices, known as ‘dark patterns,’ to manipulate users into making decisions that might not be in their best interest.
In response to this issue, the Narendra Modi government announced comprehensive guidelines on November 30 to regulate and control these dark patterns. The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has identified and defined 13 types of dark patterns, up from the 10 initially outlined in the draft.
What is a Dark Pattern?
According to the CCPA, dark patterns are deceptive design practices that use user interface interactions to mislead or trick users into actions they didn’t intend, impairing consumer autonomy and violating consumer rights. Essentially, these design choices prioritize the interests of the business or platform over the user’s clarity and autonomy.
These guidelines apply to all platforms offering goods or services in India, including advertisers and sellers. The CCPA has specifically outlined deceptive designs called “Specified Dark Patterns” in the ‘Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns, 2023.’
13 Dark Patterns Explained:
1. False Urgency
Deceptive practices conveying a false sense of urgency or scarcity to prompt immediate purchases. Examples include falsely presenting high demand without context and creating time-bound pressure with labels like ‘exclusive sale.’
2. Basket Sneaking
Including additional items during checkout without explicit consent, leading to the total payable amount exceeding the intended purchase amount. This excludes disclosed fees and necessary charges.
3. Confirm Shaming
Instilling fear, shame, or guilt to manipulate users into specific actions, such as making a purchase or continuing a subscription.
4. Forced Action
Compelling users to take actions, like purchasing additional goods or sharing unnecessary personal information, connected to their original intent.
5. Subscription Trap
Making the cancellation of subscriptions overly complex, hiding cancellation options, and using ambiguous instructions to hinder users from easily opting out.
6. Interface Interference
Manipulating the user interface to mislead by emphasizing specific information while obscuring other relevant details.
7. Bait and Switch
Advertising a specific outcome but providing an alternative one, such as claiming a product is unavailable and offering a more expensive alternative.
8. Drip Pricing
Not disclosing prices upfront or revealing them subtly, leading to charges higher than initially indicated at checkout.
9. Disguised Advertisement
Presenting ads as other types of content to trick users into clicking, including misleading advertisements.
Repeated and persistent disruptions or annoyances to influence user behavior for commercial gains.
11. Trick Question
Using confusing language or tricks to mislead or divert users from taking desired actions.
12. SaaS Billing
Collecting payments from consumers in a recurring manner in SaaS business models, exploiting positive acquisition loops.
13. Rogue Malwares
Deceptive use of ransomware or scareware to make users believe their computer is infected, leading them to pay for fake malware removal tools.
The government’s move aims to protect consumers from these deceptive practices and promote fair and transparent e-commerce practices in India.