WhatsApp Antitrust Complaint Dismissed by CCI

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The Competition Commission of India ( CCI) set aside an antitrust lawsuit against WhatsApp over the suspected usage of its dominant role in the UPI-enabled digital payments market. The complainant claimed that Facebook-backed the app, by using its dominance in the Internet-based Instant Messaging space, is bundling its messaging app with the payment option— WhatsApp Pay — and thus using that dominance to penetrate the UPI-enabled digital payment app market.

Furthermore, by enabling the automatic installation of the WhatsApp Payments App in the Messaging App, WhatsApp is alleged to have used its vast user base to popularize its newly launched WhatsApp Pay App, the complainant claimed. According to the allegation, the app violated Section 4 of the Competition Act.

The antitrust authority rejected the lawsuit, noting that it did not see any violation of the specified Statute.

“In the light of the foregoing, the Commission is of the opinion that there is no prima facie infringement case and that the information filed is directed to be closed pursuant to Section 26(2) of the Act,” the order stated.

In its submission, WhatsApp argued that WhatsApp Pay is only in the beta phase and that it can not even be said to exist as a separate product. It stated that the allegation of bundling is without merit and does not satisfy the conditions of bundling as understood in the context of antitrust.

“First, it has been argued that the application and the payment feature are not separate products, but rather an additional feature, the commercial launch of which is subject to NPCI approval,” he said.

WhatsApp’s ‘component’ is the WhatsApp program, which has introduced a range of additional features over time, including voice chat, video call, image, and document sharing, among others, the chat company said in its submission.

It added that WhatsApp Pay is an additional feature that will become part of the app when the full release version of WhatsApp Pay is launched.

However, the CCI stated that the Commission did not fully agree with WhatsApp’s submissions in this regard.

“Clearly, WhatsApp Messenger and Pay are two distinct goods of specific functionalities; they are, in essence, in two separate global markets, as stated above by the Commission. It was also held prima facie above that the app is the dominant player in the global market, i.e. ‘the market for OTT messaging applications through smartphones in India,'” said the CCI order.

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