The European Union (EU) on Thursday announced it will fine Facebook 110 million euros ($122 million) for providing incorrect or misleading information in connection with the 2014 purchase of mobile messaging service WhatsApp.
At the time of the acquisition, Facebook told European Commission (EC) competition monitors that it was not technically possible to automatically link WhatsApp user data with Facebook profiles but this later transpired to be incorrect information that Facebook staff had knowingly handed over, Efe news reported.
“Today’s decision sends a clear signal to companies that they must comply with all aspects of EU merger rules, including the obligation to provide correct information,” European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said in a statement.
“And it imposes a proportionate and deterrent fine on Facebook. The Commission must be able to take decisions about mergers’ effects on competition in full knowledge of accurate facts,” she said.
In order to review mergers efficiently and in a timely manner, the EC said, companies were obliged to provide accurate information.
During the $19 billion takeover of WhatsApp in 2014, Facebook staff told the EC, both in an official form and in response to an information request, that it would not be able to match WhatsApp and Facebook user identities.
The Commissioners found that not only was it technically possible to fuse user profiles in 2014, but that Facebook staff had been aware of this at the time.
According to EU merger regulation, the EC can impose a fine totalling 1 per cent of a company’s aggregated turnover if it has provided misleading or incorrect information.
A Facebook spokesperson said: “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 the matter to a close”.