29% of the advertisements processed by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) were disguised by influencers as regular content, which is also a part of dark patterns in advertising, as per the discussion paper released by the aforementioned self-regulatory body. The most violative categories of such practices include cryptocurrency at 24.16%, personal care at 23.2%, fashion at 16.3%, and e-commerce at 8.4%. Additionally, food and beverages, services, mobile apps, and finance are also part of violative practices.
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, Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General, ASCI, said. “By choosing fair practices that enhance both consumer and shareholder value, brands can develop sustainable ways of consumer engagement,” she added.
Titled ‘Dark Patterns’, the paper has outlined four key practices of manipulation, namely, drip pricing, bait and switch, false urgency, and disguised advertising. As per the paper, dark patterns or manipulative tactics undermine how consumers view advertising. It stated that in the long run, these tactics are likely to ruin customer experience, lower brand image and loyalty, and increase abandonments.
ASCI has also announced its task force which will examine key issues related to dark patterns and understand which practices potentially violate the ASCI code. As per the paper, not all dark patterns fall under the domain of advertising and hence they may be out of ASCI’s remit, however, they could amount to unfair trade practices which compromise consumer interest.
The paper observes that for the Department of Consumer Affairs, e-commerce involves a virtual shopping experience without any opportunity to physically view or examine the product. Hence, consumers heavily rely on reviews posted on these platforms to see the opinions and experiences of users who have already purchased the goods or services. As a result, due to fake and misleading reviews, the right to be informed, which is a consumer right under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, is violated.