“We voluntarily agreed to put it (the new policy) on hold…we will not compel people to accept…The government has asked to shut down our policy. We have said we will not enforce it till Data Protection Bill comes out. That is open-ended because we don’t know when the Bill is going to come out…We have said we will not do this for a while. Suppose the Bill allows me to do it, we will have completely different ramifications,” senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for WhatsApp, told a division bench comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh.
“We replied to the ministry of electronics and information technology’s (MeitY) notice seeking a response, saying that WhatsApp will not limit functionality for some time and continue to show users the updated version…We will maintain this approach until Data Protection Bill comes into force. We have voluntarily agreed to put the update on hold till then,” Salve added.
The bench, however, questioned WhatsApp on whether it has a different yardstick or policy for Indian users compared with European users. “Do you have a different yardstick or policy for India? Allegation is that you collect data, give it to others. You can’t do it without user consent,” Justice Patel asked Salve.
The HC then adjourned the case for further hearing on July 30 even as WhatsApp sought 15 days to file its reply to the CCI’s notice.
Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi on behalf of CCI alleged that Facebook and WhatsApp were in violation of the Competition Act and mere non-implementation doesn’t end the existence of the policy itself.
Citing orders by the HiC’s vacation bench last month which didn’t stall the probe, CCI argued that the policy very much exists as of today. “They are not enforcing compliance. But the policy is in place, it is not the statement of WhatsApp that they are giving it up. As long as policy stands, competition law issues persist…”