nclat dismisses ngo plea, whatsapp, whatsapp dominant position
ETtechThe National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) has dismissed an appeal by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) against a decision by India’s anti-trust regulator that instant messaging platform WhatsApp had not been abusing its dominant position in the country.
In a judgment dated August 2, the NCLAT said there was no reason for it to doubt the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI’s) 2017 order.
Fight for Transparency Society, the NGO had complained to the CCI in 2017 saying that the Meta-owned platform’s privacy policy update of 2016 would force users to share their data with social media platform Facebook and its other group companies.
The complainant also alleged that by dropping an annual subscription fee earlier charged to WhatsApp users, the instant messaging platform had engaged in predatory pricing.
Dismissing the complaint, the CCI had taken into consideration WhatsApp’s argument that since the platform and all its chats were encrypted ‘end-to-end’, it was not possible for anyone, other than the sender and the recipient, to read or know what was being sent.
The CCI had also noted that homegrown messaging app Hike, which had then grown to 100 million users within three years of launch, faced no significant entry barrier in the instant messaging app market, and that the consumers themselves were price sensitive.
The dismissal of the NGO’s appeal is likely to strengthen Meta’s claims that its privacy policy is not due to any abuse of dominant position it enjoys in the Indian market.
Though the CCI had in 2017 dismissed the appeals, in March 2021, the regulator started a probe against WhatsApp for another policy update under which the company said users should either give consent to share some data with the Meta group of companies or leave the platform.
After protests from users, privacy activists and a warning from the government, Meta decided to halt the privacy policy until further notice.

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