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Government Bans Use of 'Dark Patterns' on E-Commerce Platforms; Guidelines Issued

In order to protect consumers' interest, the government has banned use of "dark patterns" on e-commerce platforms which intend to deceive customers or manipulate their choices. A gazette notification in this regard as "Guidelines for prevention and regulation of dark patterns" was issued on November 30 by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) which is applicable to all platforms offering goods and services in India, and even advertisers and sellers.

Resorting to dark patterns will amount to misleading advertisement or unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights. The penalty will be imposed as per the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, it added. "In the emerging digital commerce, dark patterns are increasingly being used by the platforms to mislead the consumers by manipulating their buying choices and behaviour," Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh told PTI.

The notified guidelines will ensure clarity in the minds of all stakeholders -- buyers, sellers, marketplaces and regulators - as to what is not acceptable as unfair trading practices, the latter being liable under the Consumer Protection Act, he added. According to the notification, dark patterns have been defined as any practice or deceptive design pattern using user interface or user experience interactions on any platform that is designed to mislead or trick users to do something they originally did not intend or want to do, by subverting or impairing the consumer autonomy, decision making or choice. For instance, 'basket sneaking' is a dark pattern that includes additional items such as products, services, payments to charity or 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 or service chosen by the user.

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