Facebook has been accused of providing incorrect or misleading information by the European Commission during the Commission’s investigation of the company’s 2014 WhatsApp acquisition.
During the investigation, the Commission looked at the possibility of Facebook matching user accounts with the ones on WhatsApp – Facebook said this was impossible, stating it would be ‘unable to establish reliable automated matching’. However, in August 2016, WhatsApp announced it would be linking its user phone numbers with their Facebook profiles. The Commission believes that this possibility must have existed in 2014.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Companies are obliged to give the Commission accurate information during merger investigations. They must take this obligation seriously. Our timely and effective review of mergers depends on the accuracy of the information provided by the companies involved.
“In this specific case, the Commission's preliminary view is that Facebook gave us incorrect or misleading information during the investigation into its acquisition of WhatsApp. Facebook now has the opportunity to respond."
Facebook has until 31 January 2017 to respond to the allegations. If the Commission find Facebook in breach of the EU Merger Regulation, a fine of up to one per cent of the social network’s turnover could be imposed. Although the fine may sound small, it could still amount to hundreds of millions of euros. The investigation does not undermine the Commission’s decision to approve the 2014 $16bn takeover, because it says the alleged misleading information, although taken into account, was not relied on.