Facebook fined €110 million for 'misleading' EU over WhatsApp takeover

Facebook has been fined €110 million by the EU for providing 'incorrect or misleading' information during its purchase of messaging service WhatsApp in 2014

19 May 2017, 8:21am
Facebook staff knew in 2014 that it was technically possible to link WhatsApp phone numbers with Facebook users’ identities, contrary to their public statements about the merger
Facebook staff knew in 2014 that it was technically possible to link WhatsApp phone numbers with Facebook users’ identities, contrary to their public statements about the merger
European Union antitrust regulators on Thursday said they would fine Facebook €110 million for providing misleading information over its purchase of messaging service WhatsApp in 2014.

The European Commission, which acts as the EU's competition watchdog, said it had imposed a “proportionate and deterrent fine” on the technology company to send a clear signal that all firms must comply with EU competition rules.

When Facebook took over the WhatsApp messaging service in 2014, it told the commission it would not be able to match user accounts on both platforms, but went on to do so.

The commission found that Facebook staff knew in 2014 that it was technically possible to link WhatsApp phone numbers with Facebook users’ identities, contrary to their public statements about the merger.

"The Commission has found that, contrary to Facebook's statements in the 2014 merger review process, the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook and WhatsApp users' identities already existed in 2014, and that Facebook staff were aware of such a possibility," the Commission said. 

The fine would not reverse the Commission's decision to clear the purchase of WhatsApp and was unrelated to separate investigations into data protection issues, it added.

In a statement Facebook said the errors were not intentional and noted that the commission confirmed these submissions had not changed the outcome of the merger inquiry.

“We've acted in good faith since our very first interactions with the Commission and we've sought to provide accurate information at every turn. The errors we made in our 2014 filings were not intentional and the Commission has confirmed that they did not impact the outcome of the merger review. Today's announcement brings this matter to a close," Facebook said.

Commission rules suggest the social network could have been fined up to 1% of its turnover - a figure that would have been at least twice the amount it has been told to pay. But the Commission said it had taken into account the company’s cooperation during the inquiry.