Nobody likes advertisements. Try as you might, there’s no escaping that annoying pop-up or those videos that play automatically when you visit a webpage. But isn't just internet users who are irritated: even India’s telecom regulator seems to have taken exception to the auto-play video ads on websites and apps, according a report in The Indian Express.
An official from the regulatory authority told the newspaper that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is considering regulating online video advertisements that start playing every time someone visits the page, without taking the express consent of the visitor. What seems to be of particular concern for the authority is that these ads consume a lot of data.
“Typically, I have not come to that site to visit those advertisement[s], I have come to that site to consume its content,” an official, who wished to remain anonymous, was quoted as saying by The Indian Express. “The video ads on a webpage keep buffering and downloading. Because of this, a user’s data is consumed without the permission or authorisation, which is a serious problem.”
Ads eat too much data?
Many surveys have confirmed that Indians don’t like advertisements, but a survey carried out by the mobile app nanu found that more than 55% of Indians think that pop-ups and video ads are among the most annoying forms of mobile advertising.
The telecom regulator, however, is not going after the video ads because they’re annoying – as The Indian Express report said, they are more concerned about the data they use up, especially because users don’t understand the way it is calculated.
“We have to be a bit proactive in consumer protection as far as data is concerned because many people do not understand the complicated metrics used for internet data, and they end up finishing 80%-85% of their data packs without actually using that much,” the official said to the newspaper.
While there is no official confirmation of what the telecom authority is planning to do, if any kind of regulation is implemented, it could have a huge impact on the digital advertising market, which is estimated to be worth Rs 4,600 crore, according to media investment company GroupM.
Concerns over net neutrality
Some internet users and industry observers, however, are not on board with this.
“While it’s true that videos consume a lot of data, the regulation on such advertisements is a bit unfortunate,” said Nikhil Pahwa, owner of the website medianama.com, adding that video ads have been around for many years now and the problem should be solved by the industry, not the regulator.
He said such a move could violate the net-neutrality principle of not discriminating between different kinds of data.
“The regulator seems to be breaching its mandate by dissing one kind of content over another and this, in effect, is a violation of net-neutrality principle,” he said.
Meanwhile, conversation is already brewing online on the potential impact of this move and not everyone is convinced.
Pahwa feels that consumers are smart enough to punish or reward a website for their advertising practices.
“If you are visiting a site you are giving them implied consent, and if you don’t like the ad you are free to not visit it again,” he said. “There are many important things for Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to consider and regulate rather than focusing on something like this.”