ASCI’s Discussion Paper Reveals Dark Patterns Used By Digital Medium

With rapid advancements in user interfaces, dark patterns are the latest threat to consumer protection

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the self-regulatory authority of the advertising industry, has underlined how UI/UX used by digital platforms could be used to influence consumer decisions and consumption habits in a comprehensive discussion paper.

The paper claims that these deceptive strategies, or "dark patterns," are prevalent across numerous platforms and take many different shapes. Some of the more typical dark patterns on the internet include drip pricing, trick questions, pestering, disguised adverts, and bait and switch, among others. 

Consumers are becoming more vulnerable to such tactics as online commerce expands quickly. Influencers passed off 29 per cent of the advertisements processed by ASCI in FY 2021–22 as ordinary material. 

A 12-person task group made up of stakeholders from various tech platforms, legal experts, members of civil society and subject matter experts was established by ASCI in response to the growing global concerns about such activities. The task force looked at important concerns surrounding dark patterns to determine which of these behaviours would go against the ASCI code, which, among other things, states, "Advertisements shall not be framed so as to abuse the trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge."

Dark patterns that do not fall under the umbrella of advertising may fall outside the purview of ASCI, yet they may still constitute unfair business practices that jeopardise the interests of consumers. 

By extending its code, ASCI has planned to counter four important practices: drip pricing, bait and switch, false urgency and disguised advertising. 

All stakeholders and the general public are welcome to submit comments on the planned expansion of the ASCI code.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General, ASCI, comments, “There is a thin line between dark patterns and legitimate targeting and persuasion tactics. Dark patterns cause consumer harm and with the ever-increasing presence of advertising on digital platforms, these are now under sharp scrutiny by ad regulators around the world. Eventually, dark patterns ruin the consumer experience and increase abandonments, and make the consumer suspicious of the online space. By choosing fair practices that enhance both consumer and shareholder value, brands can develop sustainable ways of consumer engagement. ASCI continues its investment in technology to track and monitor digital advertising to help keep the online experience safe for consumers.”


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