The Department of Consumer Affairs, under the Government of India, has sought public comments on the Draft Guidelines for the Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns.
These guidelines aim to address deceptive practices employed by online platforms, known as dark patterns, that are detrimental to consumer interests, read the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution press release.
The draft guidelines, accessible on the Department of Consumer Affairs website, seek public feedback within a 30-day period until October 5.
The guidelines were formulated after extensive consultations with stakeholders, including e-commerce platforms, law firms, government entities, and voluntary consumer organizations, read the release.
The Department of Consumer Affairs conducted an interactive stakeholders’ consultation on “Dark Patterns” in June 2023, where consensus was reached that these deceptive practices needed proactive management.
Subsequently, a letter was sent to e-commerce companies, industry associations, and participants of the stakeholder consultation, urging them to refrain from using dark patterns that manipulate consumer choices and violate consumer rights under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, read the release.
A Task Force, comprised of representatives from industry associations, legal experts, voluntary consumer organizations, and leading e-commerce platforms such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook, was established, read the release.
This Task Force held five meetings to gather input and develop draft policies to combat dark patterns.
The present Draft Guidelines define dark patterns as deceptive design practices that manipulate user interface and user experience interactions on any platform to mislead or trick users into actions they did not initially intend.
These practices are considered misleading advertisements, unfair trade practices, or violations of consumer rights. 10 of the specific dark patterns are identified and defined in the guidelines, read the press release.
False Urgency- Falsely creating a sense of urgency to induce immediate purchases or actions.
Basket Sneaking- Adding additional items or costs during checkout without user consent.

Confirm Shaming- Using fear, shame, ridicule, or guilt to manipulate users into specific actions.
Forced Action- Compelling users to take unrelated actions to make a desired purchase.
Subscription Trap- Making cancellation of paid subscriptions complex or impossible.
Interface Interference- Manipulating the user interface to highlight certain information while obscuring other relevant details.
Bait and Switch- Deceptively offering an alternative outcome to users’ actions.
Drip Pricing- Concealing elements of prices or revealing them surreptitiously.
Disguised Advertisement- Presenting advertisements as other types of content.
Nagging- Overloading users with unrelated requests, information, options, or interruptions during transactions.
The proposed guidelines will apply to all persons and online platforms, including sellers and advertisers.
They aim to identify and regulate practices that manipulate or alter consumer choices through deceptive or misleading techniques and manipulated web designs.
The goal is to safeguard consumer interests and promote fairness and transparency in the digital marketplace, read the release.
The Department of Consumer Affairs remains committed to protecting consumer interests and fostering a fair and transparent marketplace, particularly in the rapidly expanding digital space.
These guidelines are expected to strengthen the industry and enhance consumer protection. (ANI)