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ASCI Releases Guidelines to Combat ‘Dark Patterns’ in Online Advertising

By - King Stubb & Kasiva on November 30, 2023

The Advertising Standards Council of India (“ASCI”) has unveiled guidelines aimed at addressing the issue of online deceptive design patterns in advertising, commonly known as "Dark Patterns." These patterns encompass advertising practices that compel consumers to make decisions against their best interests, often achieved through digital architecture elements like user interfaces that obscure free choices and seek to undermine consumer autonomy.

The comprehensive guidelines address advertising-related concerns associated with online deceptive patterns, including drip pricing, bait-and-switch tactics, false urgency, and disguised advertising. The guidelines provide clear definitions for these patterns, summarized as follows:

  • Drip Pricing: This refers to the practice of not including the entire prices of products and only revealing the complete price at the end of purchase. To prevent this, quoted prices must cover non-optional taxes, fees, and charges applicable to all or most buyers.
  • Bait-and-Switch: This situation arises when an ad suggests one outcome based on the consumer's actions and delivers another outcome when those actions are followed through, thereby misleading consumers.
  • False Urgency: This occurs when quantities of a product are projected to be significantly lower than they actually are to mislead consumers and create a false sense of urgency.
  • Disguised Advertising: This refers to content that appears organic but is planted by product makers as covert advertisements. In such cases, disclosure must be made that it is an ad.

The intent behind these guidelines is to precisely define the contours of these dark patterns, offering guidance to industry members. By prioritizing user-centric experiences and combating deceptive design practices, the advertising industry can contribute to fostering a more ethical and trustworthy online environment.

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