The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), vide notification dated November 30, 2023, introduced the Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns, 2023 (Guidelines) with the aim to regulate and prevent deceptive online behaviours adopted by online platforms.
The Guidelines define ‘dark patterns’ as practices or deceptive design patterns practices using user interface or user experience interactions on any platform designed to mislead or trick users into doing something they originally did not intend or want to do, by subverting or impairing consumer autonomy, decision making or choice, amounting to misleading advertisements or unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights.
- apply to all platforms systematically offering goods or services in India, advertisers, and sellers; and
- prohibit any person from engaging in any dark pattern.
An indicative list of activities that constitute ‘dark patterns’ is set out in annexure 1 of the Guidelines. This includes acts such as false urgency, basket sneaking, confirm shaming, forced action, subscription trap, interface interference, bait and switch, drip pricing, disguised advertisement, nagging, trick question, Saas billing, and rogue malware.
While the Guidelines are a welcome step towards protection of consumer interest and need to prevent dark patterns, the illustrative dark patterns as set out in annexure 1 of the Guidelines merit some clarification to avoid ambiguity or contradiction. For instance, reference to ‘disguised advertisement’ despite it being separately regulated under specific guidelines on misleading advertisements.