Meta’s abuse case will be held in South Africa soon. This is regarding the Competition Commission’s allegations that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and WhatsApp, abused its market dominance in the country. The hearing follows an intervention request from GovChat and its subsidiary, #LetsTalk.
Background on GovChat and Meta’s Feud
GovChat is a platform introduced in 2018 that enables the public to communicate with all levels of government, but it is dependent on WhatsApp Business API’s continued availability. In the middle of 2020, Meta South Africa announced that it would remove GovChat and #LetsTalk from the WhatsApp Business API, prompting a feud between the two companies. GovChat alleged that Meta wanted to ban them from WhatsApp to deal directly with the South African government by offering similar services.
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The Commission’s Prosecution of Meta’s abuse case
GovChat informed the Competition Commission that Meta had contacted its clients in the public sector to inform them that they would soon be removed from the WhatsApp Business API platform. The Commission escalated the matter for prosecution, and on March 14th, 2022, it reported Meta to the Tribunal for allegedly abusing its dominant position. The Commission claims that separating GovChat from the WhatsApp Business API will harm consumer welfare.
However, Meta argued that GovChat has refused to comply with its terms of service and accept its offers of assistance to do so. The social network giant also claimed that GovChat was not authorized by any government department to provide services to citizens, despite the impression given by its name. Additionally, Meta alleges that GovChat collected sensitive personal data from users without any restrictions on how it might share that data with outside parties.
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The Commission requested that the Tribunal impose a maximum penalty of 10% of their combined annual revenue on Meta Platforms, WhatsApp, and Facebook South Africa as part of its lawsuit. The hearing could have significant implications for Meta and its future operations in South Africa.
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