Ms. Arundhati Kale
Ms. Arundhati Kale
Research Associate, Policy & Advocacy, CyberPeace
Dec 18, 2023

The rapid innovation of technology and its resultant proliferation in India has integrated businesses that market technology-based products with commerce. Consumer habits have now shifted from traditional to technology-based products, with many consumers opting for smart devices, online transactions and online services. This migration has increased potential data breaches, product defects, misleading advertisements and unfair trade practices. 

The need to regulate technology-based commercial industry is seen in the backdrop of various threats that technologies pose, particularly to data. Most devices track consumer behaviour without the authorisation of the consumer. Additionally, products are often defunct or complex to use and the configuration process may prove to be lengthy with a vague warranty. 

It is noted that consumers also face difficulties in the technology service sector, even while attempting to purchase a product. These include vendor lock-ins (whereby a consumer finds it difficult to migrate from one vendor to another), dark patterns (deceptive strategies and design practices that mislead users and violate consumer rights), ethical concerns etc. 

Against this backdrop, consumer laws are now playing catch up to adequately cater to new consumer rights that come with technology. Consumer laws now have to evolve to become complimentary with other laws and legislation that govern and safeguard individual rights. This includes emphasising compliance with data privacy regulations, creating rules for ancillary activities such as advertising standards and setting guidelines for both product and product seller/manufacturer. 

The Legal Framework in India

Currently, Consumer Laws in India while not tech-targeted, are somewhat adequate; The Consumer Protection Act 2019 (“Act”) protects the rights of consumers in India. It places liability on manufacturers, sellers and service providers for any harm caused to a consumer by faulty/defective products. As a result, manufacturers and sellers of ‘Internet & technology-based products’ are brought under the ambit of this Act. The Consumer Protection Act 2019 may also be viewed in light of the Digital Personal Data Protection Act 2023, which mandates the security of the digital personal data of an individual. Envisioned provisions such as those pertaining to mandatory consent, purpose limitation, data minimization, mandatory security measures by organisations, data localisation, accountability and compliance by the DPDP Act can be applied to information generated by and for consumers.

Multiple regulatory authorities and departments have also tasked themselves to issue guidelines that imbibe the principle of caveat venditor. To this effect, the Networks & Technologies (NT) wing of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on 2 March 2023, issued the Advisory Guidelines to M2M/IoT stakeholders for securing consumer IoT (“Guidelines”) aiming for M2M/IoT (i.e. Machine to Machine/Internet of things) compliance with the safety and security standards and guidelines in order to protect the users and the networks that connect these devices. The comprehensive Guidelines suggest the removal of universal default passwords and usernames such as “admin” that come preprogrammed with new devices and mandate the password reset process to be done after user authentication. Web services associated with the product are required to use Multi-Factor Authentication and duty is cast on them to not expose any unnecessary user information prior to authentication. Further, M2M/IoT stakeholders are required to provide a public point of contact for reporting vulnerability and security issues. Such stakeholders must also ensure that the software components are updateable in a secure and timely manner. An end-of-life policy is to be published for end-point devices which states the assured duration for which a device will receive software updates.

The involvement of regulatory authorities depends on the nature of technology products; a single product or technical consumer threat may see multiple guidelines. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) notes that cryptocurrency and related products were considered as the most violative category to commit fraud. In an attempt to protect consumer safety, it introduced guidelines to regulate advertising and promotion of virtual digital assets (VDA) exchange and trading platforms and associated services as a necessary interim measure in February 2022. It mandates that all VDA ads must carry the stipulated disclaimer “Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such transactions.” must be made in a prominent and unmissable manner.

Further, authorities such as Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) also issue cautionary notes to consumers and investors against crypto trading and ancillary activities. Even bodies like Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) act as a complimenting authority, since product quality, including electronic products, is emphasised by mandating compliance to prescribed standards. 

It is worth noting that ASCI has proactively responded to new-age technology-induced threats to consumers by attempting to tackle “dark patterns” through its existing Code on Misleading Ads (“Code”), since it is applicable across media to include online advertising on websites and social media handles. It was noted by ASCI that 29% of advertisements were disguised ads by influencers, which is a form of dark pattern. Although the existing Code addressed some issues, a need was felt to encompass other dark patterns.

Perhaps in response, the Central Consumer Protection Authority in November 2023 released guidelines addressing “dark patterns” under the Consumer Protection Act 2019 (“Guidelines”). The Guidelines define dark patterns as deceptive strategies and design practices that mislead users and violate consumer rights. These may include creating false urgency, scarcity or popularity of a product, basket sneaking (whereby additional services are added automatically on purchase of a product or service), confirm shaming (it refers to statements such as “I will stay unsecured” when opting out of travel insurance on booking of transportation tickets), etc. The Guidelines also cater to several data privacy considerations; for example, they stipulate a bar on encouraging consumers from divulging more personal information while making purchases due to difficult language and complex settings of their privacy policies, thereby ensuring compliance of technology product sellers and e-commerce platforms/vendors with data privacy laws in India. It is to be noted that the Guidelines are applicable on all platforms that systematically offer goods and services in India, advertisers and sellers.


Consumer laws for technology-based products in India play a pivotal role in safeguarding the rights and interests of individuals in an era marked by rapid technological advancements. These legislative frameworks, spanning facets such as data protection, electronic transactions, and product liability, assume a pivotal role in establishing a regulatory equilibrium that addresses the nuanced challenges of the digital age. The dynamic evolution of the digital landscape necessitates an adaptive legal infrastructure that ensures ongoing consumer safeguarding amidst technological innovations. As the digital landscape evolves, it is imperative for regulatory frameworks to adapt, ensuring that consumers are protected from potential risks associated with emerging technologies. Striking a balance between innovation and consumer safety requires ongoing collaboration between policymakers, businesses, and consumers. By staying attuned to the evolving needs of the digital age, Indian consumer laws can provide a robust foundation for security and equitable relationships between consumers and technology-based products.


Dec 18, 2023
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