Facebook has been whacked with a €110m (£94.5m) fine by the European Commission for “providing incorrect or misleading information” about its 2104 WhatsApp acquisition, after the firm claimed in its original submission that it would not be able to link the profiles of users across the platforms.
The company has got off relatively lightly; the Commission has the power to fine companies up to 1% of their worldwide revenue for breaching competition law, which would have worked out at €247m (£212m) based on Facebook’s 2016 revenue.
The issue was sparked when WhatsApp announced that it would begin sharing some user data, including phone numbers, with Facebook.
In its decision, the Commission said that “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”.
EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: “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.
“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.”
In a statement published to its website, Facebook insisted it had “acted in good faith” during its discussions with the Commission, and that it had “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,” the statement read. “Today’s announcement brings this matter to a close.”
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