Facebook, WhatsApp extended to respond to CCI

The Delhi High Court on Monday extended the time for filing replies by Facebook and WhatsApp to two notices issued by the Competition Commission of India (CCI), which has ordered a probe into the new privacy policy of the instant messaging app.

WhatsApp and Facebook have challenged the CCI’s notices dated June 4 and 8, 2021, respectively, asking them to furnish certain information for the purpose of inquiry.

A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh observed that the Data Protection Bill is yet to be finalized and, therefore, adjourned the proceedings till March 30.

The court was hearing appeals by Facebook and WhatsApp, challenging a single-judge order dismissing their plea against the CCI’s order to probe into WhatsApp’s new privacy policy.

“Till then, the time for filing reply to the notices issued by the CCI to the appellants (Facebook and WhatsApp) on June 4 and June 8 last year has been extended,” the bench said.

The court had earlier given time to the social media platform to file a reply to the notice and thereafter the time was extended.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing WhatsApp, submitted that the Data Protection Bill was introduced in the Parliament and the court had earlier given time till October 11, 2021 to file reply to the notice, but after that it could not be extended as The matter was not taken up.

Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, appearing for the CCI, argued that the Data Protection Bill is “irrelevant” to the contention and the matter is not related to ‘privacy’, but rather misuse of dominant position with the provisions of the Competition Act and in some cases related to the investigation. Agreement and the dominant position of an enterprise.

Meanwhile, the counsel for Facebook India submitted that they have filed an application seeking their side as a party in the matter. However, the court asked them to file a fresh petition.

The matter pertains to the appeals of Facebook and WhatsApp against a single judge’s order dismissing their pleas against the CCI’s investigation into the new privacy policy of the instant messaging app.

A division bench of the High Court had issued notice on appeals on May 6, 2021 and asked the Center to respond to it.

On April 22 last year, a single judge had said that though it would have been “prudent” for the CCI to await the outcome of the petitions in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court against WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, not doing so “perverted” the regulator’s order. or “desire of jurisdiction”.

The court had said that it did not see any merit in the petitions of Facebook and WhatsApp for interfering in the investigation directed by the CCI.

The CCI had argued before a single judge that it was not investigating the alleged breach of privacy of individuals, which was being looked into by the Supreme Court.

It had argued before the court that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy would lead to excessive data collection and “chasing” consumers to targeted advertising to bring in more users and is therefore an alleged abuse of dominant position.

WhatsApp and Facebook had challenged the CCI’s order to examine the new privacy policy on March 24, 2021.

In January last year, CCI decided to look into the new privacy policy of WhatsApp based on news reports about the same.


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