South Africa’s competition regulator is seeking to prosecute Meta Platforms, formerly Facebook, and its subsidiaries, WhatsApp Inc and Facebook South Africa, for abusing its dominance in the social media sector.
The Competition Commission has referred the complaint to the Competition Tribunal for action, the agency announced Monday (March 14). If Meta is found to have violated the country’s anti-competition rules, the social media giant would be fined 10% of the firm’s revenues earned in the Republic and its exports from the preceding year.
The Commission alleges that Facebook has expressed its intention to offboard GovChat and #LetsTalk, a tech startup that connects government and residents via the WhatsApp Business Application Programming Interface (API).
In another allegation, the Commission said Facebook has imposed or selectively enforced terms regulating access to the WhatsApp Business API’s data.
“Access to digital markets has now become indispensable,” said Deputy Competition Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele in a statement. “In turn, access to digital markets is dependent on access to digital platforms including, as in this case, access to an important digital communication platform, the WhatsApp Business API.”
The WhatsApp Business API allows medium- and large-sized businesses and governments to message at scale, make use of automation, integrate with eCommerce, build chatbots and track metrics.
Launched in 2018, GovChat enables the public to communicate with all levels of government, to report a variety of issues such as potholes or seek COVID-19 information.
Meta also faces pushback from Europe and United States’ regulators over privacy concerns.
A recent lawsuit filed by Texas against Meta´s facial recognition practices may bring a new wave of regulatory efforts to step up privacy protection. The complaint, filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, seeks civil penalties in the hundreds of billions of dollars.