Centre seeks public comments on prevention and regulation of Dark Patterns

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | September 07, 2023 IST

consumeraffair

New Delhi, Sept. 7: The Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India, has sought public comments on Draft Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns. Draft Guidelines are placed on the website of the Department of Consumer Affairs and are accessible through the link (https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/sites/default/files/file-uploads/latestnews/Draft%20Guidelines%20for%20Prevention%20and%20Regulation%20of%20Dark%20Patterns%202023.pdf). Public comments/suggestions/feedback are solicited and may be provided to the Department within 30 days (until 5th October 2023).

The draft Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns have been framed after detailed deliberations with all stakeholders including e-commerce platforms, law firms, Government and Voluntary Consumer Organizations (VCO’s).

The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) conducted an interactive stakeholders consultation on "Dark Patterns" on 13th June 2023, which was attended by Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), various e-commerce platforms, NLU’s, Law firms etc. In the meeting, there was a general consensus that Dark Patterns are a cause of concern and need to be dealt with proactively.

Thereafter, a letter dated 28.06.2023 was sent by the Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs to E-commerce companies, Industry Associations and participants of stakeholder consultation, requesting them to refrain from incorporating any design or pattern in the online interface of their platform that may deceive or manipulate consumer choice and fall in the category of dark patterns. It strongly advised online platforms to not engage in ‘unfair trade practices’ by incorporating dark patterns in their online interface to manipulate consumer choice and violate ‘consumer rights’ as enshrined under Section 2(9) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

A Task Force was subsequently formed consisting of representatives from Industry Associations, ASCI, NLU’s, VCO’s and e-commerce platforms including Google, Flipkart, RIL, Amazon, Go-MMT, Swiggy, Zomato, Ola, Tata CLiQ, Facebook, Meta, Ship Rocket and Go-MMT. That 5 meetings of the members of the Task Force were held, wherein inputs for draft policy were taken from all the members of the task Force.

Based on these deliberations and draft Guidelines submitted by the Task force to the Department of Consumer Affairs, present Draft Guidelines for prevention and regulation of dark patterns have been drafted and are now being put up for public consultation. Proposed Guidelines shall be issued under section 18 (2) (l) of the Consumer Protection Act 2019.

The draft guidelines define dark patterns as any practices or deceptive design patterns using UI/UX (user interface/user experience) interactions on any platform; 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; amounting to misleading advertisement or unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights.

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