The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has published new guidelines for ‘Online Deceptive Design Patterns in Advertising’, to empower businesses, designers, and stakeholders to create user-centric experiences while promoting transparency, trust, and ethical standards in the digital landscape.
As consumers turn to digital platforms, marketing strategies employed on these are becoming more sophisticated and personalised. Some of these practices could be misleading or even predatory. These deceptive practices impair the consumer’s choice to make an informed decision and are more commonly referred to as Dark Patterns.
These concerns were discussed during the recently held stakeholder consultation in Mumbai on the subject, jointly organised by the Department of Consumer Affairs and ASCI. In November 2022, ASCI released a comprehensive discussion paper titled ‘Dark Patterns - The New Threat to Consumer Protection' that examined various deceptive patterns, including those found in online advertising and also formed a multi-stakeholder task force to examine these issues.
The discussion paper was kept open for comments for almost two months. Based on comments received and discussions held by the task force, it was proposed that the ASCI code be updated to include advertising-related concerns around online deceptive patterns such as drip pricing, bait-and-switch, false urgency and disguised advertising.
The guidelines will serve as a framework for businesses to design and implement user navigation and interface that put informed decision-making and express consent a priority.
Following are the areas that the new guidelines address:
The updates are a part of a broader range of measures taken by ASCI to safeguard consumer interest in the online space such as guidelines for social media influencers, cryptocurrency and real money gaming.
Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General, ASCI, said, “With the government and the industry echoing their belief in self-regulation, we believe that the guidelines we have issued today will play a crucial role in fostering a more ethical and trustworthy advertising ecosystem and protecting consumer trust. These guidelines will require businesses to create communication and systems that respect user autonomy, improve transparency, and encourage well-informed choices.”
Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary Department of Consumer Affairs, said, “We welcome the new ASCI guidelines related to advertising. Deceptive online patterns are also a violation of the Consumer Protection Act. We look forward to working with ASCI and the industry to support a robust self-regulatory mechanism for the larger framework on online deceptive patterns.”
These guidelines will be applicable from September 1, 2023 allowing online platforms a window to make the necessary changes to their systems and interface designs.
For the detailed guidelines, readers can visit: https://www.ascionline.in/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Guidelines-for-Online-Deceptive-Design-Patterns-in-Advertising.pdf.