comScore

How it Works

Dark patterns are the latest threat to consumer protection, observes ASCI

Not all dark patterns fall under the domain of advertising and hence may be out of ASCI’s remit, however, they could amount to unfair trade practices which compromise consumer interest, says the the self-regulatory body.

By  Storyboard18Nov 10, 2022 4:54 PM
Dark patterns are the latest threat to consumer protection, observes ASCI
Taking note of the growing global concerns around such practices, ASCI formed a 12-member task force comprising stakeholders from different tech platforms, legal experts, civil society and domain experts. The task force examined key issues related to dark patterns to understand which of these practices potentially violate the ASCI code which inter-alia states: “Advertisements shall not be framed so as to abuse the trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge." (Representative image via Unsplash)

Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the self-regulatory body of the advertising industry, has released an extensive discussion paper which highlights how UI/UX (user interface or user experience) deployed by digital platforms could manipulate consumer choices and consumption patterns.

Manipulative tactics, or “dark patterns” come in many forms and are present across multiple platforms. Practices such as drip pricing, trick questions, nagging, disguised ads, bait and switch, among others, are some of the commonly found dark patterns on the internet. With online commerce growing rapidly, consumers’ vulnerability to such practices is increasing.

In FY 2021-2022, 29 percent of the advertisements processed by ASCI were disguised by influencers as regular content, which is also a part of dark patterns in advertising. Cryptocurrency, personal care, fashion and e-commerce emerged as major violators.

Taking note of the growing global concerns around such practices, ASCI formed a 12-member task force comprising stakeholders from different tech platforms, legal experts, civil society and domain experts. The task force examined key issues related to dark patterns to understand which of these practices potentially violate the ASCI code which inter-alia states: “Advertisements shall not be framed so as to abuse the trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge."

Not all dark patterns fall under the domain of advertising and hence may be out of ASCI’s remit, however, they could amount to unfair trade practices which compromise consumer interest. ASCI hopes that in the near future, such dark patterns will be addressed by the regulators as they see appropriate in the interest of consumer protection.

Talking about it further, Manisha Kapoor, chief executive officer and secretary general, ASCI, explained, “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 of ad-regulators around the world. Eventually dark patterns ruin consumer experience and increase abandonments, and make the consumer suspicious of the online space."

Kapoor added, "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.”

First Published on Nov 10, 2022 4:00 PM