WhatsApp hits back: GovChat defied policies, favoured 'commercial interests over public'

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  • The Competition Commission has recommended that the Competition Tribunal fine WhatsApp 10% of its local turnover.
  • Meta says it will defend WhatsApp from abuse and protect its users.
  • It claims GovChat has preferred to prioritise its own commercial interests over those of the public.


WhatsApp owner Meta - formerly Facebook - has hit back after the Competition Commission found that it was abusing its market dominance.

According to the Commission, Meta had abused its dominance via WhatApp when it threatened to remove government's digital platform GovChat from its business application. It referred Meta, WhatsApp and Facebook South Africa to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution after investigating a complaint from GovChat. 

But Meta says GovChat refused to comply with its policies, which are designed to protect citizens and their information. According to Meta, GovChat "[preferred] to prioritise its own commercial interests over [those of] the public". 

"We will continue to defend WhatsApp from abuse and protect our users," the company said.

GovChat is a messaging platform launched in 2018 to enable citizens to report potholes and other service delivery issues with national, provincial, and local authorities. It also sends information about Covid-19 system tracking, testing and vaccination, as well as providing online applications for social relief of distress grants.

READ | GovChat: SA competition watchdog wants WhatsApp to cough up for abusing market dominance

The Competition Commission found that Meta was abusing its market dominance by threatening to remove GovChat from its WhatsApp Business Application Programming Interface (WhatsApp Business API). It has asked the Tribunal to interdict the groups from removing GovChat from the WhatsApp Business API and to declare void certain exclusionary terms and conditions for access to the WhatsApp Business API.

GovChat depends on its continued access to the WhatsApp Business API, the commission found. 

In its defence, Meta said, WhatsApp helps to provide people with important information from trusted sources, and is aware of the role the service plays in connecting South African citizens with their government.

It said it wants to "work with GovChat in compliance with internationally recognised regulatory standards to provide this service".

WhatsApp maintains that it will defend its right to take all reasonable steps to protect its proprietary WhatsApp Business API and the interests of users across the world.

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