GovChat says the win over Facebook cost a lot.

GovChat says the two-year legal battle with Facebook parent company Meta has been a arduous journey, costing the citizen engagement platform millions of rand in legal fees.

A brutal legal battle has begun between the social media mogul and GovChat in 2020. Facebook threatened to remove GovChat from the WhatsApp platform for violating its terms of service.

A controversial debate arose when meta-owned WhatsApp tried to shut down #LetsTalk and GovChat, tech startups connecting governments and citizens on WhatsApp Business application programming interfaces (APIs).

In a webinar called “David vs Goliath in the Modern” yesterday, Govtech founder and CEO Eldrid Jordaan detailed what happened and described the past two years as a stressful, emotional and financially challenging period for startups to endure.

Founded in 2018 as a then-two-year-old toddler, this meant the startup had limited financial resources to acquire the social media mogul. report According to Statista, it will generate revenues of $117 billion in 2021, up from about $86 billion in fiscal 2021.

GovChat needed access to shareholder investment firm Capital Appreciation for financial support to acquire one of the world’s most valuable companies, a global tech giant.

Then I used the services of the law firm Webber Wetzel.

“It’s been almost two years since this saga started. And it was challenging. In terms of the amount of money spent on litigation, the case has been very costly. I can’t say the exact amount, but it’s a lot of money. We are talking about millions of rands.

“We appreciate the support we have received from Capital Appreciation, our shareholder and investor,” said Jordaan. “Thank you for supporting us financially.”

GovChat founder and CEO Eldrid Jordaan.

GovChat founder and CEO Eldrid Jordaan.

GovChat provides critical services to governments and more than 8.8 million citizens who are actively using the platform, he said.

The platform has enabled, among other things, millions of South Africans to apply for distress social relief grants digitally and to report municipal issues such as potholes in their area. He highlighted GovChat’s reliance on the WhatsApp Business API to provide these services.

Startups eventually win when the competition committee wins. reference Meta Platforms (previously known as Facebook) and its subsidiaries WhatsApp and Facebook South Africa (collectively known as Facebook) were charged with abuse of control and submitted to the Competition Tribunal.

The Commission asserts that Facebook has imposed and/or selectively enforced exclusionary conditions (primarily restrictions on data use) regulating access to the WhatsApp Business API.

According to the Competition Watch, this would be in violation of Competition Law Section 8(1)(d)(ii), alternatively 8(1)(c) and additional alternative 8(1)(b).

The Commission has asked the tribunal to impose a maximum fine of 10% of total sales for Meta Platforms, WhatsApp and Facebook South Africa.

In response, Meta promised to protect the platform from “abuse”, noting that WhatsApp’s actions so far were fully consistent with the provisions of competition law and seeks to enforce its terms and conditions fairly.

“This is why we want to work with GovChat in accordance with internationally recognized regulatory standards to provide this service. However, GovChat repeatedly refuses to comply with policies designed to protect citizens and their information, putting their commercial interests ahead of the public. We will continue to protect WhatsApp from abuse and protect our users.”

We have experienced many trials and tribulations while reaching our present results. In the early stages of the matter, Jordaan explained that the startup should take an emergency ban as GovChat’s offboarding on the WhatsApp platform is imminent.

GovChat also said it is important to file complaints and explain to the competition tribunal that the terms and conditions imposed by Facebook on startups and other businesses operating on the WhatsApp Business API are anti-competitive.

“Achieving intermediary relief/bans has been a difficult process, and it is one of the most difficult things we have to do. There are four requirements that must be met to be eligible. We had to show that we had addressed our concerns about market domination. It shows that we will do irreparable harm if the interim ban is not granted. Show that no other remedies are available.”

The commission later asked the competition tribunal to block Facebook/WhatsApp offboarding GovChat on the WhatsApp Business API.

“The tribunal was satisfied with the success of GovChat in proving WhatsApp is dominant in the OTT market. [over-the-top] messaging app. Because GovChat helped millions of South Africans apply for government services during the COVID-19 pandemic, South African citizens would have suffered serious losses if their services were not available.

“We were able to get the competition committee to stop offboarding GovChat on the platform and, most importantly, to investigate meta dominance.”

GovChat believes Facebook’s prosecution in SA will set a precedent for American startups.

GovChat says the win over Facebook cost a lot.

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