Dark Patterns

Context: The Centre has asked e-commerce companies to not use “dark patterns” on their platforms that may deceive customers or manipulate their choices. More on News:
  • The government has set up a 17-member task force to prepare guidelines to protect consumers.
  • The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has started classifying complaints received on the National Consumer Helpline 1915 to compile information on dark patterns, which can be used by the Central Consumer Protection Authority to initiate action under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
About Dark Patterns:
  • Dark patterns are also known as deceptive patterns.
  • It is the term used to describe the ways in which websites or apps make their users
    • Do things that the users do not intend to do or would not otherwise do
    • To discourage user behaviour that is not beneficial for the companies.
  • Coined by: Harry Brignull, a user experience (UX) designer, in 2010.
  • Examples:
    • Annoying advertisement that keeps popping up on the user’s screen, and the user can’t find the cross mark ‘X’ to make it go away because the mark is too small to notice (or to click/ tap).
    • When users try to click/ tap on the tiny ‘X’, users sometimes end up tapping the ad instead.
Types of dark patterns identified the Consumer Affairs Ministry:
  • False urgency: Creates a sense of urgency or scarcity to pressure consumers into making a purchase or taking an action;
  • Basket sneaking: Dark patterns are used to add additional products or services to the shopping cart without the user’s consent;
  • Confirm shaming: Uses guilt to make consumers adhere; criticises or attacks consumers for not conforming to a particular belief or viewpoint;
  • Forced action: Pushes consumers into taking an action they may not want to take, such as signing up for a service in order to access content;
  • Nagging: Persistent criticism, complaints, and requests for action;
  • Subscription traps: Easy to sign up for a service but difficult to quit or cancel; option is hidden or requires multiple steps;
  • Bait & switch: Advertising a certain product/ service but delivering another, often of lower quality;
  • Hidden costs: Hiding additional costs until consumers are already committed to making a purchase;
  • Disguised ads: Designed to look like content, such as news articles or user-generated content.
Steps taken by other governments
  • The United States and the United Kingdom have passed legislation to curb dark patterns.
  • Companies have been sued for indulging in dark patterns behaviour in Australia.
News Source: Indian Express

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