The bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad reserved the order on the matter after hearing both the parties
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) and social media platforms WhatsApp and Facebook continued their arguments before the Delhi High Court (HC) on Monday over the contentious 2021 WhatsApp privacy update.
The bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad reserved the order on the matter after hearing both the concerned parties.
“Judicial process cannot be used to thwart investigation…(pendency of privacy issue before Supreme Court) cannot automatically obviate competition law concerns. There is no overlap in facts. We should be allowed to investigate,” said Venkataraman.
He added that WhatsApp is still resorting to a ‘pop up’ to seek the consent of users who are yet to accept the updated policy.
ASG Venkataraman called for examining the matter contending that there could still be violations related to competition law as many users have opted for the policy update.
He said that the probe into the 2021 WhatsApp policy update would have no bearing on the pending case in the apex court as the current case relates to the abuse of dominant position by a market player. The probe cannot not be stalled unless there is a ‘lack of jurisdiction or malafides or arbitrariness’, the CCI added.
During the course of the hearing, the CCI also called for roping in Facebook as a party to the probe. Arguing for the competition watchdog, ASG Balbir Singh said that Facebook is the holding company of WhatsApp, and added that it can ‘potentially exploit the data being shared’.
In response, WhatsApp’s counsel Tejas Karia called for deferring the CCI probe citing the case before the Supreme Court. He also claimed that ‘status quo’ is being maintained for users who have not opted for the contentious policy update.
The saga began in March last year after the CCI launched a probe into WhatsApp after it came to light that the messaging platform was imposing its new policy updates on customers. The policy update allowed WhatsApp to leverage ‘business conversations’ users had with business accounts on the app for targeted advertising.
Subsequently, both WhatsApp and Facebook challenged the probe before a single judge bench which rejected the appeal filed by the social media giants.