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online shopping platforms: Government cracks down on online shopping platforms for deceptive design patterns


Online shopping sites have come under scrutiny for employing deceptive design techniques that sneak unwanted items or donations into users’ shopping baskets. These practices, known as “dark patterns,” utilize user interface and user experience (UI/UX) interactions to mislead consumers, potentially violating their rights.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has taken note of this issue and has issued a discussion paper proposing new guidelines to curb the proliferation of dark patterns. These patterns are designed to manipulate users into taking actions they did not originally intend to or coercing them into certain actions.

Kailash Nadh, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Zerodha, expressed support for these proposed guidelines. Talking to TOI, he described dark patterns as predatory practices that border on exploitation and recognized the need for a human-centric legal framework to address this issue. Nadh also drew a parallel with the importance of net neutrality in the technology sector.

A spokesperson for Zomato, acknowledged the importance of curbing deceptive or misleading patterns to create a safe and trustworthy online environment for consumers.
Dark patterns encompass a range of tactics, including creating a false sense of urgency or scarcity to prompt users to make immediate purchases. For example, an online shopping site may falsely indicate that there are only a few items of a product or limited seats on a plane available, pressuring users to act quickly.One specific dark pattern known as “basket sneaking” involves stealthily adding additional items, such as products, services, or donations to charity, during the checkout process without the user’s explicit consent. This results in the total amount payable by the user being higher than what they intended to pay for the selected products or services.Regulators in the European Union (EU), the United States (US), and the United Kingdom (UK) have taken action against such unfair practices, recognizing the need to protect consumers from deceptive design patterns that can lead to unintended purchases or financial burdens.The discussion paper from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs signals a growing awareness of the importance of safeguarding consumer rights in the digital age, particularly in the realm of e-commerce and online transactions. It remains to be seen how these proposed guidelines will be implemented and how they will impact the online shopping landscape in India.


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