- European commission says fine is a ‘clear signal’ to companies that they must comply with EU merger rules
Facebook has been fined €110m (£94m) by
the EU for providing misleading information about its 2014 takeover of WhatsApp .
The European commission said it had imposed a “proportionate” 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 exactly that.
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.
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.
“Today’s announcement brings this matter to a close,” Facebook said.
The fine could have been more than twice the size, as competition authorities are able to fine rule-breaking companies 1% of annual turnover, which for Facebook was $276m (£211m) in 2014. But the commission said it had taken into account the company’s cooperation during the inquiry.
“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 the EU competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager. “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.”
The European commission stressed the latest fine was unrelated to national antitrust inquiries. The German cartel office is investigating whether Facebook is abusing its dominant position by failing to inform people about how their personal data is being used. Investigations are also under way in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.
A French data watchdog fined Facebook €150,000 on Tuesday for failing to prevent users’ data being accessed by advertisers.