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GovChat asks Competition Tribunal for interdict to stop plans for its removal from WhatsApp

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GOVCHAT approached the Competition Tribunal for an urgent interdict to halt Facebook’s plans to remove it from the WhatsApp platform.

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JOHANNESBURG – GovChat, South Africa’s official citizen engagement platform on WhatsApp, has approached the Competition Tribunal for an urgent interdict to halt Facebook’s plans to remove it from the WhatsApp platform.

The move follows threats by Facebook to remove GovChat from the WhatsApp platform due to an alleged violation of the contractual terms of use, the tribunal said in a statement.

GovChat and Hashtag Letstalk which are applicants in the matter have called on the tribunal to restrain Facebook from removing them from the WhatsApp platform pending the outcome of a complaint which they submitted to the Competition Commission, relating to alleged prohibited practices by Facebook, or for a period of six months whichever occurs first.

Facebook argues that this case concerns its rights to enforce the contractual terms that govern the use of its paid business messaging platform, the “WhatsApp Business API”. They accuse the applicants of breaching the terms of use in pursuit of commercial interests.

GovChat claims that it operates within WhatsApp’s terms of use, and has never intentionally misrepresented its position and acted in good faith at all times.

“The applicants cite numerous failed attempts to reach a commercial solution for all stakeholders with Facebook, to prevent the termination of GovChat’s access to the WhatsApp platform,” said the tribunal in a statement.

GovChat and Hashtag Letstalk further argue that Facebook’s “off-boarding” of GovChat from WhatsApp’s API will end GovChat’s ability to render services to the government and citizens “at the height of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa and force the applicants out of business”.