[Editorial] Dark Patterns- How is India Regulating E-Commerce Trade Practices?

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India’s proactive move to control e-commerce’s covert trade practices, termed “dark patterns,” is a commendable and timely measure. This initiative, stemming from discussions with sector participants and consumer advocacy groups, culminating in draft guidelines, aims to bring this significant issue to the forefront.


  • Origin of “Dark Patterns”: The term “dark patterns” was introduced in 2010 by the British ‘user experience researcher’ Harry Brignull.
  • Initial Digital Landscape:
    • Google, now known as Alphabet, was perceived as a harmless search engine.
    • Facebook, currently recognized as Meta, bridged global personal connections.
  • Emergence and Impact:
    • The dawn of profit-centric dark patterns was evident.
    • Consumers were mostly unaware of the implications concerning their privacy, time, finances, and energy.
    • Ubiquitous Dark Patterns Examples:
      • Auto-selection of travel insurance during flight bookings.
      • Compulsory provision of email or phone details to access e-commerce platforms, leading to relentless promotional messages.
      • Nudges prompting users to purchase gifts during birthday acknowledgments.

Global Reactions

  • European Response:
    • The European Data Protection Board provided guidelines in March to identify and counter dark patterns on social platforms.
  • U.S. Perspective:
    • The Federal Trade Commission highlighted the increase in intricate dark patterns in September, aiming to deceive consumers.

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India’s Guidelines and Focus

  • Guidelines Overview:
    • The Indian directives present methods to detect and combat online platform strategies like:
      • False urgency creation. copyright©iasexpress.net
      • Basket sneaking.
      • Confirm shaming.
      • Enforced actions.
      • Subscription entrapments.
  • E-commerce Tactics:
    • A 2021 scholarly report concluded that over half of e-commerce platforms employ dark patterns for product sales.
  • Fourth Industrial Revolution Era:
    • Internet technology behemoths have meticulously gathered user behavior data.
    • Utilization of this data to promote own or third-party products.
    • Accumulation of profits that often overshadow the Gross Domestic Products of numerous countries combined.
  • Previous Regulatory Efforts:
    • Historically, India’s regulations were restricted to:
      • Mitigation of tax evasions.
      • Safeguarding traditional store merchants.
  • Consumer-Centric Shift:
    • Renewed emphasis on consumer welfare.
    • Embracing a broader perspective to guard privacy concerning personal data on e-commerce and social media portals.

Way Forward

As the digital era progresses, regulations must evolve simultaneously to ensure consumers’ trust and security. The Indian government’s fresh approach to e-commerce, focusing on consumer protection and privacy, is a testament to its commitment towards fostering a protected, unbiased, and open digital ecosystem.


India’s endeavors to combat the challenges posed by e-commerce dark patterns underscore its commitment to consumer protection in the digital age. By focusing on safeguarding privacy and ensuring transparency, India paves the way for a more secure and trustworthy digital commerce future.

Practice Question for Mains

What are dark patterns? How is India regulating such practices? (250 words) copyright©iasexpress.net


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