Why is it in the news?
- The Ministry of Civil Aviation in India is taking measures against deceptive online practices by airlines and travel agents like IndiGo, SpiceJet, and MakeMyTrip.
- These practices, termed as “dark patterns,” are considered “cybercrime” as they deceive consumers into making unintentional purchases during flight ticket bookings.
Understanding Dark Patterns
- They are the digital design tactics that manipulate user actions, often viewed as unfair trade practices and potentially as cybercrime.
- It refers to strategies employed by websites and apps to make users perform actions they did not intend to or discourage behaviours that are not advantageous for the companies.
- Dark patterns are employed by prominent firms such as Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Skype.
- Example: LinkedIn might send users unsolicited sponsored messages from influencers. Turning off this feature might require navigating a convoluted multi-step process.
Different Forms of Dark Patterns
- False Urgency: Promotes hasty purchases by falsely indicating urgency or limited availability.
- Basket Sneaking: Secretly adds extra items or charges during checkout.
- Interface Interference: Uses design to emphasize certain data while hiding other crucial details.
- Bait and Switch: Promises one thing but provides something different.
- Drip Pricing: Gradually reveals or conceals price components throughout the user journey.
- Other Notable Forms: Forced actions, entrapment in subscriptions, shame tactics for confirmation, hidden advertising, persistent reminders, etc.
India’s Regulatory Steps Against Dark Patterns
- Established a consultation group to tackle the issue of fake online reviews.
- Implemented the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) code, which addresses misleading advertisements across different mediums, inclusive of online platforms.