CCI rejects petition alleging WhatsApp using clout to enter payment space

There is neither any concrete allegation, nor any specific information to support the competition concern of the Informant, the CCI said
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has dismissed a petition against WhatsApp which alleged that the Facebook-owned instant messaging app is using its dominant market position to launch payment services in India.

Even though the competition watchdog observed that the two entities “undeniably deal with customer sensitive data which is amenable to misuse and may raise potential antitrust concerns among other data protection issues”, it said in its order that the UPI digital payments market consists of various established players competing vigorously and that users of WhatApp Pay were less than 1 per cent in India. “Its actual conduct is yet to manifest in the market,” CCI said in its 41-page order.

The CCI order comes in response to issues raised by the informant Harshita Chawla who alleged that “by acquiring its competitors, Facebook has made available a product portfolio made of Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Oculus, which are called the five pillars of its revenue-generating model thereby driving out healthy competitors from the market.”

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) had granted permission to WhatsApp in February to operate its payment service to 10 million users in India in the first phase. The messaging service giant counts India as its biggest market with over 400 million users.

On allegations of WhatsApp and Facebook having access to data for targeted advertising the anti-trust regulator said, “There is neither any concrete allegation, nor any specific information to support the competition concern of the Informant.”

The commission also noted that given the fact that the WhatsApp ecosystem does not involve paid services as such for normal users, it seems unlikely that the consumer traffic will be diverted by WhatsApp using its strength in the messenger market. It also said that while WhatsApp Pay is embedded in WhatsApp messenger app when it is downloaded by users on their smartphones, the consumers are at freewill to use the app or any other UPI enabled digital payments app in India to make instant inter-bank transfers. It therefore does not raise issues of compulsion or coercion on users, CCI added.


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