Centre seeks public comments on Draft Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns

Source: The post is based on the article Centre seeks public comments on Draft Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patternspublished in PIB on 8th September 2023

What is the News?

The Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India has sought public comments on Draft Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns. 

What are the Draft Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns?

Definition of Dark Patterns: Dark Patterns are deceptive design patterns using user interface or user experience interactions on any platform.

– These practices are designed to mislead or trick users to do something they originally did not intend or want to do.

– Dark patterns undermine consumer autonomy, decision-making and choice potentially constituting misleading advertising, unfair trade practices or violations of consumer rights.

Different Types of Dark Patterns:

False Urgency: It means falsely stating or implying the sense of urgency or scarcity so as to mislead a user into making an immediate purchase or take an immediate action, which may lead to a purchase.

Basket sneaking: It means inclusion of additional items such as products, services, payments to charity/donation at the time of checkout from a platform, without the consent of the user, such that the total amount payable by the user is more than the amount payable for the product(s) and/or service(s) chosen by the user.

Confirm shaming: It means using a phrase, video, audio or any other means to create a sense of fear or shame or 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 from the platform or continuing a subscription of a service.

Forced action: It shall mean forcing a user into taking an action that would require the user to buy any additional good(s) or subscribe or sign up for an unrelated service, in order to buy or subscribe to the product/service originally intended by the user.

Subscription trap: It means the process of making cancellation of a paid subscription impossible or a complex and lengthy process including similar other practices.

Interface interference: It 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 an action desired by her.

Bait and switch: It means the practice of advertising a particular outcome based on the user’s action but deceptively serving an alternate outcome.

Drip pricing: It means a practice whereby-elements of prices are not revealed upfront or are revealed surreptitiously within the user experience; and/or other such practice.

Disguised advertisement: It means a practice of posing, masking advertisements as other types of content such as user generated content or new articles or false advertisements.

Nagging: It shall mean a dark pattern due to which users face an overload of requests, information, options, or interruptions; unrelated to the intended purchase of goods or services, which disrupts the intended transaction.

What are the challenges in enforcing these guidelines according to experts?

The real challenge lies in conclusively proving that certain practices indeed qualify as dark patterns.

Consider the ‘false category,’ for instance.How will a regulator determine if a hotel or platform claiming, ‘only 2 rooms remaining – book now!’ is genuinely providing accurate data, or misleading users due to a lack of context?.

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