WhatsApp and Facebook have filed a complaint with the CCI, requesting that they provide certain information for the purposes of the CCI’s investigation.

The Delhi High Court on Monday extended the deadline for Facebook and WhatsApp to respond to two letters issued by the Competition Commission of India (CCI), which has ordered an investigation into the instant messaging app’s revised privacy policy.

WhatsApp and Facebook have both contested the CCI’s notices dated June 4 and 8, 2021, which asked them to provide certain information for the sake of an investigation.

The proceedings were adjourned to March 30 by a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh, who noted that the Data Protection bill had not yet been finalized.

The court was considering Facebook and WhatsApp’s appeals after a single-judge judgment dismissing their petitions against the CCI’s investigation into WhatsApp’s new privacy policy.

“Until then, the deadline to file replies to the CCI notices issued to the appellants (Facebook and WhatsApp) on June 4 and 8, last year is extended,” the bench observed.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing WhatsApp, argued that the Data Protection bill had been introduced in Parliament and that the court had previously granted time to file responses to the notices until October 11, 2021, but that time could not be extended further because the matter had not been heard.

CCI’s Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi argued that the Data Protection Bill is “irrelevant” to this case and that the case is about the provisions of the Competition Act relating to abuse of dominant position and inquiry into certain agreements and dominant position of an enterprise, not about privacy. Meanwhile, Facebook India’s counsel stated that he has filed an application to be impleaded as a party to the case. The court, however, ordered him to file a new petition.

The issue concerns Facebook and WhatsApp’s appeals against a single judge’s judgment dismissing their petitions against the CCI-ordered investigation into the instant messaging app’s revised privacy policy.

On May 6, 2021, the high court’s division bench issued notices on the appeals and requested the Centre to respond.

On April 22, last year, the single judge stated that while it would have been “prudent” for the CCI to await the outcome of petitions in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court challenging WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, failing to do so would not render the regulator’s order “perverse” or “wanting of jurisdiction.”

The court had ruled that the pleas filed by Facebook and WhatsApp to halt the CCI’s inquiry were without substance. The CCI had argued before the single judge that it was not investigating the alleged infringement of people’s privacy that the Supreme Court was looking into.

It had contended before the court that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy will result in excessive data collecting and “stalking” of consumers for targeted advertising in order to attract more users, and thus constitutes an alleged abuse of dominant position. WhatsApp and Facebook had filed an appeal against the CCI’s March 24, 2021, order mandating an investigation into the new privacy policy. On the basis of news reports, the CCI decided to investigate WhatsApp’s new privacy policy on its own in January of last year.