Business News

The government encourages online retailers to stop deceiving customers by employing sneaky tactics.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MCA) has written a letter to top digital commerce companies such as Amazon, Flipkart, Nykaa, BigBasket, Reliance Retail, Swiggy, Meesho among others to stop using dark patterns for duping consumers as it is an unfair trading practice.

The ministry is also in the process of framing guidelines for discouraging the usage of dark patterns, said Rohit Kumar Singh, secretary, department of consumer affairs which comes under the ministry of consumer affairs.

The department has urged the industry to self-regulate and establish ethical design guidelines to rectify the menace, failing which the offense will be punishable as unfair trade practices.

Dark patterns involve using a design and choice architecture to trick, coerce or influence consumers to make choices not in their best interest.

“Engaging in such deceptive and manipulative conduct by using dark patterns in online interfaces unfairly exploits consumers’ interest and constitutes ‘unfair trade practice’ under the Consumer Protection Act, (2019),” the secretary said in a letter to the industry written on June 28.

“Therefore I strongly urge you to refrain from indulging in any design or pattern in the online interface of your platform that may deceive or manipulate consumer choice and fall in the category of dark pattern,” the letter further said.

Dark Patterns are interfaces crafted to trick or manipulate users into making choices that are detrimental to their interest.

The ministry has identified 10 practices which fall under dark patterns such as creating false urgency, sneaking items into the final purchase basket, confirm shaming that is shaming consumers for not paying extra money for charity, forced action such as forceful signing up, nagging, subscription traps, interface trap such as making it difficult to exit a page, bait and switch meaning advertising one product but sending another, hidden costs and disguised advertising.

In recent years India has experienced a boom in internet and smartphone penetration with the number of active internet users in 2022 touching 759 million. This is expected to increase to 900 Mmllion by 2025.

With this India’s consumer digital economy is also expected to become a $1 trillion market by 2030, growing from $537.5 billion in 2020. This is driven by the strong adoption of online services, making it important for the government to safeguard consumer interest.



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