WHY IN NEWS ?
- Recently, the Centre has asked e-commerce companies to not use “dark patterns” on their platforms that may deceive customers or manipulate their choices.
WHAT ARE DARK PATTERNS ?
- Dark patterns, 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.
- It also discourages user behaviour that is not beneficial for the companies.
- The term dark patterns was coined by Harry Brignull, a London-based user experience (UX) designer, in 2010.
- The Internet is replete with examples of dark patterns.
- Numerous websites and apps trick their users into allowing them to track their location or gather their data.
- EXAMPLE: Think of that annoying advertisement that keeps popping up on your screen, and you can’t find the cross mark ‘X’ to make it go away because the mark is too small to notice (or to click/ tap).
- Worse, when you try to click/ tap on the tiny ‘X’, you sometimes end up tapping the ad instead.
HOW TO SPOT DARK PATTERNS ?
- The best and most effective way to recognise dark patterns is to educate yourself about the tricks used by websites and apps to influence your decisions.
TYPES OF DARK PATTERNS :
The Consumer Affairs Ministry has identified nine types of dark patterns being used by e-commerce companies:
- 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.
- The government has set up a 17-member task force to prepare guidelines to protect consumers.
- The Ministry has started classifying complaints received on the National Consumer Helpline 1915 to compile information on dark patterns.
- This info can be used by the Central Consumer Protection Authority to initiate action under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
- The United States and the United Kingdom have passed legislation to curb dark patterns.
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