Brazil antitrust agency revokes decision blocking WhatsApp, Cielo venture

Wednesday, July 1, 2020
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Brazilian antitrust watchdog Cade on Tuesday said it was revoking its previous decision suspending Facebook Inc's recently launched WhatsApp payments messaging service in partnership with card processor Cielo SA.

Cade said preliminary information provided by both Cielo and Facebook indicated their agreement does not limit new deals with rivals and does not reduce consumers' choice. Still, Cade said it would continue investigating the partnership.

"We are glad Cade acted quickly to lift its preventive restrictions on WhatsApp Payments," a spokesperson for WhatsApp said in a statement.

"We look forward to continuing to work with Brazilian authorities to restore the service soon and allow all WhatsApp users in Brazil to send money to friends and family or purchase a product right on WhatsApp," the spokesperson added.

Despite Cade's decision, the payments service via WhatsApp, which had been in the testing phase, is unlikely to be restored soon because Brazil's central bank separately blocked it last week over issues related to Visa Inc and Mastercard.

Under a rule only instituted last week, the regulator ordered the two payment systems to stop operating in partnership with WhatsApp, saying they had to seek its permission to do so.

The central bank said rolling out the service without previous analysis by the monetary authority could hurt Brazil's own payments system in terms of competition, efficiency and data privacy.

WhatsApp has over 120 million users in Brazil, its second-largest market behind India, making a system allowing users to pay each other via messages a potentially powerful rival to local banks.

(Reporting by Carolina Mandl; Additional reporting by Marcela Ayres in Brasilia;  Editing by Christian Plumb and Tom Brown)