Meta Platforms and its WhatsApp subsidiary has been found to be anticompetitive by South Africa’s Competition Commission, which has referred the social giant to the Competition Tribunal “for prosecution… for abuse of dominance”.
It could result in Meta, Facebook and WhatsApp being fined “10% of their collective turnover” in the country.The case refers to a South African messaging service called GovChat, a technology start-up which allows the country’s government to connects with citizens using the WhatsApp Business API.
In July 2020 WhatsApp told the startup it was planning an “ongoing intention to offboard Gov Chat and #LetsTalk,” the commission said in a statement.
“The commission found that the harm to the competitive process is also clear because the decision to off-board GovChat from the WhatsApp Business API and the exclusionary terms for access to the WhatsApp Business API, including restrictions on the use of data, limits innovation and the development of new products and services,” the Competition Commission said in a statement.
GovChat’s lawyer Shawn van der Meulen, a partner at Johannesburg-based law firm Webber Wentzel , said it is “a groundbreaking case, being one of the few abuse of dominance cases ever prosecuted by the South African Competition Commission, and the first of its kind involving digital platforms and markets”.
“The case echoes the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division’s recent case filed against Meta for its strategies to eliminate emerging competitors who rely on Meta’s platforms and ecosystem, before they are able to become a threat to Meta’s dominance,” he told me.
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