The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), a group representing major tech industry players including Meta, Amazon, Twitter, and Google, has voiced its opposition to the draft dark pattern guidelines proposed by the Indian government. The AIC argues that these guidelines could potentially hinder the growth of India’s digital economy and adversely affect the ease of doing business.
Dark patterns refer to deceptive user interface design elements used to mislead individuals into taking unintended actions, such as making purchases or providing personal information.
The Indian government had recently released draft guidelines aimed at curbing these dark patterns employed by online platforms. The guidelines were made available for public feedback until October 5 on the Department of Consumer Affairs’ website.
In a letter addressed to the Department of Consumer Affairs, the AIC contended that existing Indian laws already regulate online platforms, including online advertisements. They emphasized that introducing a separate regulatory framework would create unnecessary overlaps, leading to uncertainty regarding compliance requirements and impeding the ease of doing business for digital service providers.
The AIC pointed out that current laws, such as the Information Technology Act 2000 (IT Act) for online intermediaries and the Consumer Protection Act 2019 (CPA) for e-commerce platforms, adequately address regulation and prevention of dark patterns. They urged for self-regulation to ensure that any attempts to regulate dark patterns align with existing obligations under these laws.
Furthermore, the coalition highlighted that dark patterns related to unfair trade practices or misleading advertisements are already regulated under the CPA. They stressed the need for avoiding regulatory redundancy and emphasized that addressing privacy concerns related to dark patterns could be managed through the Digital Personal Data Protection Act 2023 (DPDP Act).
The coalition also urged the Indian government to consider a regulatory approach similar to the European Union’s, emphasizing that if a separate regulatory framework is deemed necessary, it should be sector and medium-agnostic, applying to both offline and online content and advertisements.
They suggested aligning with the European Union’s approach, which has already implemented principle-based obligations on online service providers through directives such as the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, the Digital Services Act, and the General Data Protection Regulation.
As discussions on dark pattern regulations continue, the tech industry and the Indian government face the challenge of finding a balanced approach that promotes consumer protection while fostering a conducive environment for digital innovation and business growth. Stay tuned for further developments on this crucial issue.