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Delhi High Court extends deadline for WhatsApp, Facebook to respond to CCI notice till October 11

The Bench extended the time period for filing reply to June 4 and June 8 notices issued by the CCI upon WhatsApp and Facebook, respectively, till next date of hearing; and slated the matter for further hearing on October 11, 2021.

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The Delhi High Court on Friday extended till October 11 the deadline to respond to the notice served by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) on WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook seeking certain information on the platforms’ new privacy policy.

The Division Bench led by Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was hearing an appeal preferred by the social media platforms challenging the order passed by the Single Judge wherein the Single Judge refused to interfere with the investigation against the platform’s new privacy policy. 

Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, appearing for the Commission, submitted that repeated attempts have been made by the social media giant Facebook and its subsidiary company WhatsApp to stall the investigation process. 

The Bench extended the time period for filing reply to June 4 and June 8 notices issued by the CCI upon WhatsApp and Facebook, respectively, till next date of hearing; and slated the matter for further hearing on October 11, 2021.  

WhatsApp was represented by Senior Counsel Harish Salve, while Facebook Inc. was represented by Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi. 

The Competition Commission of India, on March 24, 2021, passed an order directing to cause an investigation to be made by the Director General into the WhatsApp 2021 Update to its Terms and Privacy Policy. Facebook and its messaging platform WhatsApp moved the Court challenging the suo moto action initiated by the CCI. 

WhatsApp claimed its 2021 update does not expand the platform’s ability to share data with Facebook and in no manner impact the privacy of personal messages of the WhatsApp users. It further asserted that it’s new policy aimed at providing users with further transparency about how WhatsApp collects, uses and shares data.

CCI claimed that the investigation aims at examining whether the excessive data collection by WhatsApp and the use of the same has any anti-competitive implications.

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The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Navin Chawla, dismissed the petitions, while observing that the order passed by the Commission is purely administrative in nature, meant only to form a prima facie opinion for directing an investigation. The Court held that  order passed by the Commission was within the jurisdiction of the powers vested in it under the Competition Commission Act. 

The Bench, on an earlier occasion, extended the deadline for filing reply till August 27. It was informed that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy will not be enforced till the Personal Data Protection Bill comes in.

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