ASCI extends code for online advertisements

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the self-regulatory body for the advertising industry, plans to extend its code to what it calls “dark patterns” in online advertising to protect Indian consumers against misleading online messages.

Currently, the ASCI Advertising Code asks companies and brands to self-regulate, which requires ads to be legal, decent, and truthful. The self-regulatory body receives and resolves complaints against dishonest, offensive, harmful and unfair competition advertising. Unveiling a white paper on Thursday, ASCI said dark patterns are online user interfaces designed to trick or manipulate users into making choices that are detrimental to their interests, such as buying a product that is more expensive, paying more than originally disclosed, sharing data or making decisions. based on fake or paid reviews. E-commerce businesses spend millions of dollars designing user interfaces and navigation paths that ultimately lead to more business. “However, when these are made in a way that steers the consumer towards choices that are detrimental to their interests, a line is crossed,” ASCI said.

The council said it proposed to cover these “dark patterns” under four headings: drip pricing, bait and switch, false urgency and disguised advertising.

In Drip Pricing, sometimes when a user purchases online, only a portion of a product’s price is disclosed to the buyer until they reach the page where payment must be made. This creates ambiguity around the final price and the representation is misleading. ASCI suggests that prices listed should include non-optional taxes, duties, fees, and charges that apply to all or most buyers.

The regulator is also seeking transparency in other methods used by brands and online sellers. In Bait and Switch, as the name suggests, when a user takes action while expecting a result, the person instead receives a result they didn’t want. For example, a consumer may select a product offered at a certain price but then can only access it at a higher price. The false urgency highlighted by ASCI means that companies should not state or imply that the available quantity of a particular product is more limited than it actually is.

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