Tribunal issues interim order in GovChat, WhatsApp face off

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The Competition Tribunal has issued an order which regulates the arrangements between GovChat, Facebook and WhatsApp from now until it issues its decision regarding GovChat’s application.

GovChat brought an urgent application before the Tribunal, asking for interim relief against Facebook, WhatsApp and Facebook SA.

The official citizen engagement platform for government is looking to the Tribunal to interdict and restrain Facebook from removing it from the WhatsApp business platform.

The world’s largest social media platform, Facebook, wants to off-board GovChat from the WhatsApp business platform, alleging that the former is in violation of popular messaging app’s terms of use.

However, GovChat maintains it has not breached WhatsApp's policy, adding that if Facebook succeeds in off-boarding it from the WhatsApp business platform, its “entire existence will be materially prejudiced”.

During an online hearing this week, the Tribunal heard from Facebook’s legal team in regards to the matter. GovChat delivered its arguments in the matter on 13 January 2021.

In a statement, the Tribunal says it issued the order because the parties were unable to agree on arrangements among themselves during this interim period.

Tribunal’s order provides that: “WhatsApp and Facebook may not remove (“off-board”) GovChat from the WhatsApp platform; WhatsApp and Facebook may not do anything to undermine GovChat’s relationship with its clients that would, in effect, off-board GovChat from the WhatsApp platform.

“GovChat may not add (“on-board”) any new clients or users to the WhatsApp Business Account; and in relation to existing clients or users on the WhatsApp Business Account, GovChat will not be able to expand their current service offering.”

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