Author: NICHOLAS HIRST
The European Commission today slapped Facebook with a fine of €110 million after concluding the social network misled competition officials who were reviewing its $22 billion acquisition of WhatsApp.
“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,” said Margrethe Vestager, the European commissioner for competition. “And it imposes a proportionate and deterrent fine on Facebook.”
She opened the probe after Facebook started collecting user accounts, despite having told officials during the merger review that it would not be able to automatically match a user’s Whatsapp account with his or her Facebook account.
Facebook responded that any errors discovered by the Commission were unintended.
“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,” a spokesman said. “The errors we made in our 2014 filings were not intentional.”
Facebook faced a maximum fine of 1 percent of annual revenues — around €250 million. Previous procedural cases have resulted in fines of no higher than €20 million.
At the start of the probe, officials ruled out undoing the merger, saying the issue of merging accounts was not a decisive factor behind its approval.