Dark Pattern

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The Consumer Affairs Department and the Advertising Standards Council of India hosted stakeholder consultation on the topic of dark patterns.


  • Dark patterns are elements of digital UI (user interface) that are designed to manipulate users to opt for certain choices.


  • Unlike in case of user-centred UI designs, it is used to maximize the online service provider’s interest, as opposed to the user’s interest.


  • Dark patterns constitute unfair practices under the 2019 Consumer Protection Act.
  • Consumer digital economy in India expected to reach $1 trillion by 2030.


  • It takes advantage of people’s inherent psychological biases.
  • Some of the types highlighted at the recent stakeholder consultations include:
    • Urgency- i.e. tactics to create a sense of scarcity and urgency to pressure the user to taking a specific action.
    • Basket sneaking- the practice of adding additional products/ services to the shopping cart without user’s permission.
    • Confirmshaming- use of guilt to pressure the user. Eg: criticizing or attacking users for not conforming to a particular viewpoint.
    • Forced action- such as asking user to sign up before allowing access to content.
    • Nagging- persistent prompts to take a particular action.
    • Subscription traps- making it easy to sign up but difficult to cancel subscription.
    • Interface interference- designing the interface in such a way as to impede certain actions, such as cancellation of a subscription, deletion of an account, etc.
    • Bait and switch- advertising one product or a service but delivering another product or service of a lower quality.
    • Hidden costs- tactics of hiding additional costs from consumers until they are ready to make the purchase.
    • Disguised ads- advertisements that are designed to appear like other types of content, such as user-generated content, news articles, etc.

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