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Why the South African Government is Going After Facebook & Meta

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South Africa’s Competition Commission is reportedly going after the Facebook and WhatApp parent company, Meta, for alleged violation of the Competition Act through “abuse of dominance”.

According to eNCA, the commission wants the company to pay South Africa over 10 percent of its turnover. The commission says it made its findings after GovChat and, #LetsTalk filed a complaint against Facebook, WhatsApp, and Facebook South Africa in 2020.

The commission is also accusing Facebook of offboarding GovChat and #LetsTalk from the WhatsApp Business Application Programming Interface and it has referred Mata, WhatsApp, and Facebook to the Competition Tribunal to be prosecuted.

It has asked the Tribunal to interdict the groups from removing GovChat from the WhatsApp Business API and to declare void certain exclusionary terms and conditions for access to the WhatsApp Business API, Media24 reported.

“The intended off-boarding of GovChat from the WhatsApp Business API will harm consumer welfare by removing the efficiency of the GovChat which allows the public to communicate with multiple government bodies through a single platform and will also deprive the government of the current services (and future services such as mobile payment solutions) offered by the GovChat,” the commission said.

GovChat was launched in 2018 to allow citizens to have service delivery issues with the government. It has also been useful in sending COVID-19 information, such as testing and vaccination, including information about social relief and distress grants.

The commission says numerous messages are sent via the app every day.

“In view of the important services provided by GovChat, which provides a real-time interface between government and the public, and the benefits to competition presented by its business model, Facebook’s decision to off-board GovChat from the WhatsApp Business API and its exclusionary terms of data usage are untenable,” Competition Commissioner Thembinkosi Bonakele said.

By Zintle Nkohla

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