The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed petitions filed by WhatsApp and its parent company Meta, formerly known as Facebook, challenging a single-bench order that had refused to interfere with the Competition Commission of India’s investigation into the platform’s 2021 privacy policy, PTI reported.

A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said that the appeals were devoid of merits and that the single bench’s order was well-reasoned.

The court had reserved its order in the case on July 25.

In March last year, the Competition Commission of India had ordered an investigation into WhatsApp’s new privacy policy after making a prima facie observation that the policy violated the Competition Act, 2000.

However, both WhatsApp and Meta had argued that the matter was already being heard by the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court and thus the Competition Commission of India should not have ordered the investigation.

WhatsApp had claimed the commission “jumped the gun” by starting suo motu proceedings and that the investigation was a “headline-grabbing endeavour”.

On June 23, a single bench of Justice Navin Chawla, however, dismissed the petition saying the order for an inquiry cannot be quashed merely because the anti-trust regulator did not wait for the verdicts of the cases pending before the Supreme Court and the High Court.

The judge had also said he found no merits in the petitions filed by Meta and WhatsApp.

The new privacy policy

In January 2021, WhatsApp had sent its users a notification that it was preparing a new privacy policy, and it reserved the right to share some user data with Facebook.

However, after facing massive backlash and with millions of users moving to other messaging platforms such as Signal and Telegram, WhatsApp decided to defer the changes to May 15, 2021. The company said it would do more to clear misinformation about the policy.

In an affidavit submitted to the Delhi High Court on May 14 last year, WhatsApp had stated that the policy update was not mandatory and users had the option of deleting their account or not using it.

The affidavit also named a number of private companies, including Google, and state-owned firms such as Aarogya Setu and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation that WhatsApp claimed have a privacy policy similar to its update.

On May 17, 2021, WhatsApp had said that it was trying to get users on board to accept the new policies, but in case they do not do so, their accounts will slowly be deleted. But on May 25, WhatsApp clarified that it will not limit its functions for users who do not accept the new privacy policy.

On June 3, 2021, the central government claimed before the Delhi High Court that messaging platform WhatsApp was acquiring “trick consent” from users for its new privacy policy.

The Centre also argued that the platform should stop sending notifications to a user and claimed that its actions were against “the very grain of prima facie opinion of the Competition Commission of India’s order” passed on March 24 last year.