May 25, 2022

Mete faces legal action in South Africa after the country’s competition regulator, the Competition Commission, revealed its intent to block government startups GovChat and #LetsTalk from using the WhatsApp Business API as non-competitive.

The watchdog, which has been investigating allegations of dishonest behavior against the startup since March 2021, has referred Meta (formerly Facebook) to the Competition Tribunal, which hears complaints of restrictive practices and abuse of dominance.

In its context, the regulator recommends that META pay a “maximum fine” – a fine of 10% of the US company’s local sales.

The commission alleges that Facebook threatened to block GovChat and #Let’sTalk from using its WhatsApp Business API around July 2020. They added that Facebook imposed unreasonable restrictions on the use of startup data, limiting its ability to develop and develop new products. Services that can compete with Meta products.

“…the terms of access to the WhatsApp Business API are designed to protect and differentiate Facebook from potential competition, such as the potential competition presented by GoChat and the huge amount of data that would allow it to launch new services and products. develops,” the regulator said in a statement.

GovChat was launched in 2018 by the South African government as a citizen engagement platform that uses the WhatsApp Business API to facilitate real-time communication. It now has 8.7 million active users and over 582 million messages processed, according to the government.

In addition to being a source of warnings and complaints about social issues such as potholes, GoChat has been used by the government to process applications for social security, including emergency assistance, during the COVID pandemic. More than 13.3 million requests have been sent through the GovChat platform.

The referral for prosecution comes days after competition regulators from five African countries, including South Africa, signed a memorandum of understanding that, among other things, will be concrete despite all the difficulties limiting the growth and expansion of African digital platforms. The other parties to the agreement were Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius and Nigeria.

On a global scale, META is under scrutiny due to possible anti-competitive behavior. The European Commission launched a formal antitrust investigation last week to assess whether the “JD-Blue” codename agreement between Meta and Google for online advertising services could violate EU competition rules.

The September 2018 JD-Blue agreement was intended to allow the Meta audience network to participate in Google’s open bidding program, potentially deterring other ad technology providers from “increasing competition in online display advertising markets”. Ultimately the consumer,” said the European Commission.

Meanwhile, the US Federal Trade Commission is suing Meta for an illegal monopoly, alleging that the social media giant was able to establish its dominance of the social network through non-competitive moves, including the acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp nearly a decade ago. the monopoly is maintained illegally.

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