The Competition Commission is an oversight body for all businesses trading within South Africa. This means that the body is responsible for the enforcement and regulation of anti-trust or anti-competitive behaviour by a majority of businesses and entities. Recently the Competition Commission has attempted to rein in the unchecked powers of the international conglomerate and owner of both Facebook and WhatsApp, Meta Platforms Inc. This article will look at the powers of the Competition Commission to set certain standards and what the enforcement of such a regulation would mean for the rest of the corporate world transacting within South Africa.
In a world where big conglomerates appear to be too big to fail, and as a result of this, they appear to act beyond the law governing any jurisdiction, companies like Meta Platforms Inc who own social networking sites such as Facebook and WhatsApp appear as if they are a law unto themselves and are not held to any standards. However, many countries including South Africa have entities set up to regulate such companies thus ensuring that they do not partake in any antitrust or anti-competitive behaviour. Antitrust or anti-competitive behaviours are acts that result in a single company or entity controlling the market in which they transact by either existing as a monopoly over such market or participating in activities that result in price-fixing and the decrease of competitive behaviours between businesses. The main aim of the South African Competition Commission is to regulate the behaviour of companies to stop or prevent practices that may be seen as anti-competitive. The Commission does this by ensuring that companies do not collude in price-fixing nor do they have a monopoly over a market, whereby no other competitor exists or the cost of entry to the market is so high that the perceived benefits do not outweigh them.
The Competition Commission alleges that the Meta Platform Inc is engaging in anti-competitive behaviour by threatening to remove the government’s chat options from their social networking sites (Facebook and WhatsApp), being GovChat and #LetsTalk. These chat options were free for the South African public to interact with government officials allowing them to raise their concerns as well as gain access to social grants. These open information streams provided the government with access to thousands of messages daily which provided valuable information enabling the increase of efficiency in service delivery. The removal of such options has resulted in the Competition Commission seeking the Competition Commission Tribunal to impose a maximum fine against Meta South Africa and International. This fine is the sum total of 10% of the revenue of Meta Platforms Inc’s South African revenue.
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