Commission dismisses complaint against WhatsApp

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The Competition Commission of India (CCI) recently rejected a case filed under section 19(1)(a) of the Competition Act, 2002, against WhatsApp alleging contravention of section 4 of the act.

In Shri Vinod Gupta v WhatsApp Inc, USA, Gupta filed an information under section 19(1)(a) of the act, contending that in February 2014 WhatsApp, the world’s most popular messaging service, was acquired by Facebook and in August 2016 WhatsApp introduced changes to its privacy policy that forced users to share their account details and other information with Facebook in order to continue to use WhatsApp’s services, thereby enabling Facebook to use customers’ data for targeted advertising in a highly deceptive manner. It was argued that WhatsApp was thus abusing its dominant position under section 4 of the act by forcing users to share account and other information with its parent company, Facebook.

The CCI observed that though WhatsApp did hold a dominant position in the market, there had been no abuse of the position, since the disclosure had been made to the users regarding the sharing of information. The CCI further observed that the sharing of information with parent company Facebook was to improve services provided to users. Regarding the allegation that WhatsApp’s conduct when making its users sign its new private policy was in violation of the Information Technology Act and the right of privacy, the CCI noted that this issue was already under judicial consideration in an appeal pending before the Supreme Court arising from a writ petition filed with Delhi High Court involving the “right to privacy” in which similar allegations were raised by WhatsApp users. Therefore, this issue was outside the purview of the CCI as it was not pursuant to the Competition Act.

The CCI thus held that no prima facie case of contravention of section 4 of the act was made out against WhatsApp. Accordingly, the matter was closed under the provisions of section 26(2) of the act.

The dispute digest is compiled by Bhasin & Co, Advocates, a corporate law firm based in New Delhi. The authors can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected] Readers should not act on the basis of this information without seeking professional legal advice.