Facebook and WhatsApp owner Meta Platforms has been referred to a tribunal for allegedly abusing its dominant position in the market, South Africa’s Competition Commission said on Monday.
In a statement, the regulator accused Meta of “abusing its dominance by engaging in exclusionary conduct geared at preventing competitors or potential competitors from entering into, participating, and expanding in a market”.
The commission said Meta had decided to “offboard” GovChat (a start-up that connects government and citizens) and its subsidiary #LetsTalk from its WhatsApp Business Application Programming Interface.
It also said the company had “imposed and/or selectively enforced exclusionary terms and conditions regulating access to the WhatsApp Business API, mainly restrictions on the use of data”.
But a spokesperson for WhatsApp said the regulator was challenging actions meant to protect the platform’s users from abuses of WhatsApp’s terms.
WhatsApp said its exclusion of GovChat was because the start-up was not complying with Meta’s terms of service.
“GovChat has repeatedly refused to comply with our policies which are designed to protect citizens and their information, preferring to prioritise their own commercial interests over the public,” a Whatsapp spokesperson said. “We will continue to defend WhatsApp from abuse.”
Meta is facing anti-trust action by several authorities, including the United States, Britain and the European Union.