South Africa Drags Facebook to Tribunal for Market Dominance Abuse

The Competition Commission in South Africa has dragged social media company Meta Platforms Inc (formerly known as Facebook Inc), and its subsidiaries, WhatsApp Inc and Facebook South Africa, to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution, alleging abuse of its dominance in the market.

In a statement on Monday, the commission said that Facebook tried to remove GovChat and LetsTalk, a technology startup that connects government and citizens from its Whatsapp Business Application Interface in July 2020. The commission describes this as a contravention of South Africa’s Competition Act which prohibits a dominant firm from engaging in exclusionary conducts that prevent competitors from entering or participating in a market.

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According to CC Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele, the offboarding of GovChat from Whatsapp API could harm consumer welfare. “Access to digital markets has now become indispensable.  In turn, access to digital markets is dependent on access to digital platforms including, as in this case, access to an important digital communication platform — the WhatsApp Business AP,” he added.

However, WhatsApp defended its exclusion of GovChat because of the start-up’s refusal to comply with Meta’s terms of service and insists that the company will continue to defend Whatsapp from abuse.

The commission has asked the tribunal to impose a maximum penalty against Meta Platforms, WhatsApp and Facebook South Africa equal to 10% of their turnover.

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Meta is facing already anti-trust action by several countries including the United Kingdom, the EU and the United States.

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