Dark patterns: deceptive business tactics

(MainsGS2:Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.)


  • The Department of Consumer Affairs and the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) recently held a joint consultation with stakeholders on the menace of ‘dark patterns’.

About dark patterns:

  • A dark pattern refers to a design or user interface technique that is intentionally crafted to manipulate or deceive users into making certain choices or taking specific actions that may not be in their best interest. 
  • It is a deceptive practice employed to influence user behaviour in a way that benefits the company implementing it.
  • For example, a common dark pattern is the “sneak into basket” technique used on e-commerce websites. 
  • When a user adds an item to their shopping cart, a dark pattern may be employed by automatically adding additional items to the cart without the user’s explicit consent or clear notification. 
  • This can mislead the user into purchasing more items than they intended, potentially increasing the company’s sales but compromising the user’s autonomy and decision-making.
  • It is challenging for customers to decline the acquisition of their personal data if they want to continue on a website because the choice to depart or reject is so subtly positioned. 
  • By using such dark patterns, digital platforms infringe on the consumer’s right to full transparency of the services they use and control over their browsing experience.

Legality of dark pattern:

  • The legality of dark patterns is a complex matter as distinguishing between manipulation and fraudulent intent can be challenging. 
  • As of now, there are no specific regulations in place in most nations against dark patterns. 
  • Nonetheless, individuals who have experienced harm as a result of dark patterns may potentially seek compensation for damages. 
  • In 2022, Google and Facebook faced repercussions due to their cookie banners. 
  • These companies violated EU and French regulations by making it more difficult for users to reject cookies as compared to accepting them.

Addressing dark patterns:

  • Guidelines from the European Data Protection Board were released in 2022 and offered designers and users of social media platforms practical guidance on how to spot and avoid so-called “dark patterns” in social media interfaces that are in violation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws.
  • The Department of Consumer Affairs and the ASCI have identified the issue and recently taken certain steps to handle the same. 
  • As of now, companies are being asked to desist from using such tactics in the e-market.
  •  Major Indian online marketplaces warn against engaging in “unfair trade practices” by implementing “dark patterns” in their user interfaces to influence consumer choice and infringe on “consumer rights” as stated in Section 2(9) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. 


  • With the growing use of e- platforms, a robust legal mechanism is a demand.. To do this, new rules aimed against deceptive design practices may need to be introduced along with updated consumer protection laws and data protection legislation.
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