After identifying three more dark patterns existing in the ad ecosystem, the Department of Consumer Affairs will be releasing the final guidelines for the prevention and regulation of dark patterns this week, told Nidhi Khare, Chief Commissioner, Central Consumer Protection Authority and Special Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution to BestMediaInfo.com.
It was a few months back, on September 8, 2023, that the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) published the draft guidelines for prevention and regulation of dark patterns.
Khare said that in the past one year, what the CCPA has witnessed is a lot of Generative AI-led advertisements as well as a rise in the earlier drafted dark patterns.
“When we actually started examining advertisements that have come out in the year so far, for unfair trade practices, we found out that there are certain dark patterns, which is why we came up with a draft guideline on the same that comprised eight such patterns. But when we shared the documents with the stakeholders, three more were added to the list,” she said.
Elaborating on the three additional dark patterns, Khare shared the example that when an individual is trying to book an air ticket, it is very often that one is flooded with pop-ups which do not allow him/her to book the ticket without saying yes to say for example an insurance cover which is completely different from what the person was trying to do. However, when such pop-ups actually come on screen with the option of choosing yes or no, in the process, the consumer ends up feeling guilty for choosing no.
Another pattern that the Ministry has noticed is that of a consumer not being able to purchase a subscription, say for example X without subscribing to Y as they cannot be directed to the payment page without doing so and hence, what happens in a lot of cases is that consumers make an assumption that Subscription Y is free, which is not the case, and end up paying for the both of them as it is very difficult to go back and unselect the purchasing of Subscription Y and thereby manipulating the consumer’s decision.
The third new dark pattern that the Department of Consumer Affairs has found and will be included in the guidelines for prevention and regulation of dark patterns when notified next week is that of buying something which the consumer did not want or expect to pay for.
To explain this better, Khare shared the example of a consumer who wanted to buy a commodity X for say Rs 5 and then was shown that if he/she added another item of say, Rs X, then the delivery would be free. Sharing another such instance to support her statement, she said that when an individual books a ride, it is often the case that he/she doesn’t have to look at the entire bill before making the payment, however, if he/she does, it is found out that the same consumer paid Rs X extra for say a charity which he/she hadn’t selected for himself.
As per the draft guidelines issued at the time, “Dark Patterns” refers to “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 the misleading advertisement or unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights.”
In fact, these draft guidelines have since then been applicable to all platforms, systematically offering goods or services in India; advertisers; and sellers.
The draft guidelines for prevention and regulation of dark patterns, when issued in September this year included specified dark patterns such as ‘False Urgency’, ‘Basket Sneaking’, ‘Confirm Shaming’, ‘Forced Action’ ‘Subscription Trap’, ‘Interface Interference’, ‘Bait and switch’, ‘Drip Pricing’, ‘Disguised Advertisement’ and ‘Nagging’.
She also emphasised that the industry must understand that they are being on the watch for unfair trade practices not just by the CCPA but also under the Consumer Protection Act 2019 and it is basically for the guidance of the industry, that they should start self-regulating themselves before they get caught under dark patterns.
During the course of her interaction with BestMediaInfo.com, Khare also confirmed that starting December 1, this year, her role as Chief Commissioner, CCPA, and Special Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution will come to an end.
Starting next month, she will be assuming the role of Officer on Special Duty at the Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development in the rank and pay of Secretary to the Government of India.