Facebook-owned instant messaging app WhatsApp’s plans to officially integrate its payment service into the app is under scrutiny once again. The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is reportedly reviewing a complaint against the social media giant that raises concerns regarding the violation of the country’s antitrust laws.
The complaint was filed in mid-March alleging that WhatsApp was bundling its digital payment service within its messaging app, which allows it to abuse its massive user base to exploit India’s growing digital payments market. While WhatsApp and CCI did not comment on the matter yet, two sources told Reuters that the complainant was a lawyer, who refused to disclose his identity. “The case is in initial stages .. senior members of CCI are reviewing it, but a final judgment hasn’t been reached,” told one among the three sources to Reuters.
The complaint comes at a time when WhatsApp is aggressively looking for an official rollout of the service in India, whereas, it has been beta testing the service with 1 million users since 2018. WhatsApp’s payment service will allow users to do inter-bank fund transfers via UPI from within the messaging app. While in Google’s case, the search giant released a standalone app for the service.
INDIA’S ANTITRUST LAW AND WHATSAPP
WhatsApp has been struggling to get regulatory clearance for a full-fledged rollout to its existing 400 million users in India. Country’s antitrust watchdog is allegedly looking into the allegations. The CCI can order its investigations arm to conduct a detailed probe into the claims or discard the case if it finds no substantial argument to back it.
India’s antitrust law was developed to protect consumers from monopolistic business practices by making it illegal for businesses to compete in unfair ways. WhatsApp, which has its most extensive user base in India, definitely has an advantage over the existing famous players like Google Pay and Paytm.
The latest antitrust setback isn’t the first hurdle restricting WhatsApp payment service in India. Last month an Indian legal think-tank also filed a case in Supreme Court against violation of data storage rules by WhatsApp. In response, WhatsApp told the court that it would comply with the necessary laws before launching the service, whereas the latest court order has asked Indian regulators to submit their views on the case.