CCI vide its recent order dated June 01, 2017 has closed an allegation of abuse of dominant position against popular message service WhatsApp. The complaint against WhatsApp was filed by an individual Vinod Kumar Gupta on behalf of a NGO “Fight for Transparency Society”.
CCI heard both the complainant and the counsels for WhatsApp in a preliminary conference in order to arrive at a prima facie view.
CCI concluded, on the basis of various studies reports that WhatsApp was in a dominant position in the relevant market for “instant messaging services using consumer communication apps through smartphones in India” being the most popular messaging service with 97% of the smartphone users in India having been installed on 96% of the devices and has more daily active users than any other communication app in India. As per the study report WhatsApp is installed in 2.3 times more devices than home grown messaging apps like Hike .
Regarding the allegation that the conduct of WhatsApp making its users sign its new private policy is in breach of the IT Act, 2000 and the right of privacy, the Commission noted that this issue was already sub-judice in an appeal pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court arising out of a writ petition earlier filed in Delhi High Court (W.P.(C) 7663/2016) wherein similar allegations were raised by the petitioners, who were users of WhatsApp. This issue was therefore, outside the purview of the CCI being not a competition issue under the Act.
As regard the allegation that WhatsApp was indulging in predatory pricing by offering free services, CCI noted that there are several other applications available in the relevant market such as Hike, Messenger and Viber, which were also offering free services. It appears to be standard practice in the industry / business and therefore WhatsApp alone cannot be accused of indulging in predatory pricing since it was following the revenue model like that of other players in the market. Moreover, CCI noted that there are no significant cost preventing the users to switch from WhatsApp to other apps since all such communication apps are easily downloadable on smartphones and can co -exist on the same handset (also called “multi-homing”).
Based on the above, CCI found that there was no prima facie case to investigate the alleged conduct of WhatsApp even though it was found to be in a dominant position