Draft Guidelines on ‘Dark Pattern’ Released

To curb misleading users from unintentionally doing something through deceptive UI/UX design patterns, the Department of Consumer Affairs has issued draft Guidelines on the Prevention and Regulation of ‘Dark Patterns’ that prohibit persons, including platforms, from indulging in specified unethical practices.

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”. The draft provides a list of specified dark patterns with explanations and examples, including:

  • False Urgency: Implying urgency or scarcity to deceive users into making an immediate purchase or any other action. Example: ‘Only 2 rooms left’.
  • Basket Sneaking: Inclusion of additional items, charity money etc. However, free samples and complimentary services are allowed. Also, ‘necessary fees’ such as delivery charges etc. are allowed. Example: Adding travel insurance while booking flights.
  • Confirm Shaming: Using phrases or other means to shame, guilt, ridicule etc. to nudge the user to act in a certain way. Example: “I will stay unsecured”.
  • Forced Action: Forcing a user to buy additional items to continue using the contracted items. Example: Download a separate app to access services originally advertised in one app.
  • Subscription Trap: Making paid subscriptions too complicated to discontinue or hiding the cancellation option or making instructions cumbersome.
  • Interface Interference: Designs manipulating user interface to highlight certain information and obscure other relevant information.
  • Bait and Switch: Advertising a particular outcome based on the user’s action but deceptively serving an alternate outcome.
  • Drip Pricing: Elements of prices are not revealed upfront or are revealed surreptitiously within the user experience.
  • Disguised Advertisement: Practice of posing, and masking advertisements as other types of content such as user-generated content or new articles or false advertisements. The onus shall be on the advertisers or sellers and not on the platform.
  • Nagging: Overload of requests, information, options, or interruptions; unrelated to the intended purchase.

The draft guidelines shall apply to all platforms offering goods and services in India, including advertisers and sellers. Comments may be shared by October 5, 2023.