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ASCI extends ‘Dark Patterns’ paper feedback deadline

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has extended the deadline for feedback on its discussion paper on manipulation in advertising from December 31, 2022, to January 16.

“We have received requests from some industry organisations requesting for an extension of the deadline. Once all the responses are in by the 16th we will then study them and understand the different points of view and fine-tune the guidelines accordingly,” Manisha Kapoor, CEO and secretary general of ASCI told Business Standard.

“Response [to the paper] has been good so far with some interesting builds,” she added.

The paper titled “Dark Patterns in Advertising” discussed how certain practices by digital platforms could manipulate consumer choices and consumption patterns to the detriment of consumer interest. These include disclosing only a part of the product’s price, stating the false available quantity of a product to generate false urgency, and disguised advertising in media.

The paper suggested several changes in the practices to encourage fair advertising. Among the most important was the suggestion to let the customers decide if they want to share their personal information in the customer exchange for service or not.

The companies should “make it easy for customers to unsubscribe from their account pages. Consider offering a retention package to persuade them to stay before they make their final decision.”

The recently proposed Digital Services Act by the Centre also highlighted certain advertising practices that were of concern. These include making termination of service more difficult than subscribing to it and constant pop-ups that interfere with user experience.

In 2022, the Department of Consumer Affairs summoned cab and two-wheeler aggregators to disclose how they fix their charges and algorithms. It also formed a consultation group to address the issue of fake online reviews.

It said that due to fake and misleading reviews, the right to be informed, which is a consumer right under the Consumer Protection Act of 2019, is violated.

According to data analysed by ASCI, 29 per cent of ads in 2021-22 pertained to disguised ads, a kind of dark pattern. The highest among these were related to cryptocurrency, personal care, and fashion. Business Standard

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