In a significant move, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs issued a warning to prominent e-commerce giants, including Amazon, BigBasket, and Reliance, regarding their use of deceptive web design tactics known as “Dark Patterns.”

These patterns manipulate user behavior and can lead to unfair practices. The government’s stern warning signifies its commitment to protecting consumers and promises severe consequences for those who continue to employ such tactics.

What Are Dark Patterns?

Coined by user experience (UX) consultant Harry Brignull in 2010, the term “Dark Patterns” refers to misleading design techniques employed by businesses to deceive users. These patterns exploit psychological biases and create manipulative experiences.

Despite the government’s recent action, dark patterns are prevalent in online environments, making it crucial for users to be aware of them and stay vigilant.

Government’s Stand Against Dark Patterns

Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh shed light on the government’s warning during a press briefing. Initially, on June 13, e-commerce companies received a gentle warning to refrain from using dark patterns.

Subsequently, on June 28, a stern letter was sent to these companies, urging them to cease these practices or face legal repercussions. Although Amazon declined to comment on the situation when contacted by The Quint, the government’s intent to tackle this issue remains unwavering.

The Widespread Use of Dark Patterns

Studies conducted by various institutions highlight the pervasive nature of dark patterns. A Northeastern University study in October 2021 revealed that 95% of the top 240 Android apps employed misleading techniques, while over 50% of popular websites showcased dark patterns.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) also conducted a study, finding that 29% of influencer-published social media advertisements featured deceptive dark patterns during 2021 and 2022.

Additionally, a 2020 MIT study indicated that dark patterns significantly influenced users’ decisions on data tracking requests, demonstrating their potent impact.

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Common Deceptive Patterns

Let’s explore some frequently used dark patterns based on data from Brignull’s catalogue, shedding light on their manipulative nature:

Confirm-Shaming: This pattern coerces users into selecting a certain option by making the alternative appear undesirable, such as providing personal information or subscribing to a newsletter.

Unreal Scarcity: Creating a false sense of limited availability, fake scarcity entices customers to act hastily due to fear of missing out, often through misleading claims about low supplies or high demand.

Discreet Ads: Disguised advertisements blur the line between genuine information and advertising, confusing users by mimicking interface components or related articles to increase click-through rates.

Unreal Urgency: Websites employ fictitious deadlines, often using countdowns, to create a sense of urgency and pressure users into making quick decisions.

The Roach Motel: This deceptive pattern makes signing up for a subscription or service easy but deliberately makes canceling it a cumbersome and complex process, often requiring users to contact customer care.

Sneak-Into-Basket: E-commerce platforms add unwanted items to a user’s cart without their knowledge, resulting in unintended purchases unless actively removed.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs’ warning to e-commerce giants regarding the use of dark patterns emphasizes the government’s commitment to safeguarding consumer rights. These manipulative design techniques exploit users’ vulnerabilities and erode trust. It is crucial for consumers to be aware of these deceptive patterns and exercise caution while navigating online platforms.

By staying informed and vigilant, users can protect themselves from falling victim to unfair practices and contribute to fostering a more transparent and ethical digital environment.

Image Credits: Google Images

Feature Image designed by Saudamini Seth

Sources: The Hindu, The Quint, India Times

Find the blogger: Pragya Damani

This post is tagged under: dark patterns, government after dark patterns, amazon, big basket, reliance, deceptive patterns

Disclaimer: We do not hold any right, copyright over any of the images used, these have been taken from Google. In case of credits or removal, the owner may kindly mail us.

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