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new draft e-commerce policy soon to be in the public domain

ASCI releases guidelines for online deceptive design patterns in advertising

ASCI recently released the guidelines for online deceptive design patterns in advertising (which are commonly referred to as “Dark Patterns”). Dark patterns refer to a variety of practices followed by online platforms to try and lead the consumers to make choices that are often not in their best interests. The aim of the guidelines (introduced by ASCI) is to prevent misleading practices that manipulate and deceive consumers in online user interfaces. These guidelines will come into force on September 1, 2023.

The guidelines elaborate on the following points:

  1. Drip Pricing: The prices displayed in advertisements and e-commerce platforms must include all non-optional taxes, duties, fees, and charges which apply to all or most buyers in order to prevent drip pricing. In simpler words, the total price (inclusive of any non-optional taxes, charges, etc.) of a product/service should be displayed upfront (rather than displaying it at a later stage during the transaction process).
  2. Bait and Switch: The advertisements should not be such that they imply a particular outcome based on consumer action and subsequently provide an alternative outcome (which is different from the originally implied outcome). These tactics include offering of misleading pricing, offering unavailable products (and later offering alternative options), etc.
  3. False Urgency: Advertisers should not state or imply limited quantities of a product or service that do not accurately reflect the actual availability. Advertisers must be able to demonstrate that the stock position at the time of display of limited quantity was actually of a level of urgency communicated to the consumers.
  4. Disguised Ads: Advertisements which resemble editorial or organic content must clearly disclose that it is an advertisement. Examples of such content include influencer posts, paid reviews and ads designed to appear like editorial content.
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