New Delhi: The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has released guidelines to address the issue of deceptive design tricks, or dark patterns, in online advertising. The move comes as the government takes proactive steps to curb such practices. The guidelines, which will be implemented from September 1, cover digital media advertising in sectors such as e-commerce and food delivery apps. Their aim is to tackle disguised ads and ambiguous pricing.
To ensure transparency for consumers, the guidelines require advertised prices on e-commerce platforms to include non-optional taxes, duties, fees, and charges that apply to most buyers. This is intended to prevent drip pricing, where elements of the prices are not initially revealed and the complete price is only disclosed at the end of the purchase process. The guidelines state that this practice creates confusion around the final price and makes price comparisons difficult.
Misleading advertising that implies one outcome based on a consumer’s action but delivers a different outcome will also be deemed misleading, according to ASCI. This includes the “bait and switch” method, where a consumer selects a product at a certain price but later discovers the same product at a higher price.
To combat disguised ads, the guidelines require content such as influencer posts and paid reviews to clearly indicate that they are advertising. The guidelines also state that misleading consumers by stating or implying limited quantities of a product or service, when in fact there are more available, is not allowed.