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WhatsApp cites fresh NCLAT judgement in efforts to block antitrust probe in India

Earlier this week, NCLAT held that WhatsApp didn’t violate competition laws in a 2017 case. Antitrust watchdog argues that messaging platform’s policy and practices have changed since then

August 05, 2022 / 01:18 PM IST
Representative Image

Representative Image

The Delhi High Court has agreed to consider a WhatsApp plea that an antitrust probe against it has no merit based on an National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) judgement earlier this week.

WhatsApp had filed a petition in the Delhi HC last year, asking the court to disallow India's antitrust regulator to investigate the messaging platform for alleged anti-competitive practices based on its 2021 privacy policy update.

On August 2, the country's top tribunal for company law matters, which is also empowered to hear competition law disputes, held that the platform was not in violation of competition norms in a 2017 appeal that was filed in relation to its 2016 privacy policy update.

The messaging platform asked the Delhi High Court to take into account this judgement in the matter on August 4, with the court agreeing to the request.

Interestingly, in 2017, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) itself had said in an order that WhatsApp had not abused its dominant position in the instant messaging market. The judgement that NCLAT gave earlier this week was on a petition that had challenged the CCI order of 2017.


However, the competition watchdog has now argued that the Meta (formerly Facebook)-owned platform's position and practices in the market have changed in the years since – consequently, meriting a fresh evaluation of the matter.

Hearings at the Delhi High Court in this matter have concluded. The court is expected to give a judgement within the next couple of weeks that will determine whether CCI can investigate Whatsapp or not.

In January last year, the CCI on its own had decided to look into WhatsApp's updated privacy policy based on news reports regarding the same.

The CCI has contended that it was not examining the alleged violation of individuals' privacy which was being looked into by the Supreme Court. It had earlier argued before the court that the new privacy policy of WhatsApp would lead to excessive data collection and "stalking" of consumers for targeted advertising to bring in more users and is, therefore, an alleged abuse of dominant position.

WhatsApp did not respond to a Moneycontrol query on the matter.

Last month, the antitrust watchdog told the Delhi High Court that it was not able "move an inch" in its investigation into WhatsApp's privacy policy of 2021 on account of a court order granting time to Facebook and the instant messaging platform for filing replies in connection with the probe.

CCI told a bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma that there was "virtually a stay" on the proceedings and the anti-trust regulator must be allowed to carry out its investigation and Facebook and WhatsApp must be asked to file their replies, according to media reports.
Deepsekhar Choudhury Deepsekhar covers tech and startups at Moneycontrol. Tweets at @deepsekharc
Tags: #WhatsApp
first published: Aug 5, 2022 01:18 pm
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