Facebook facing EU fine over WhatsApp buy

James Pearce
Published on:

European Commission is investigating whether Facebook gave "misleading information" to win approval for $19 billion merger

The European Union could be set to hit Facebook with a multimillion-euro fine for giving ‘misleading’ information when it bought WhatsApp in 2014.

EU regulators have been investigating Facebook over changes to its privacy policy announced in August that allows the social media platform access to customer data from the messaging app.

During initial talks over the $19 billion takeover, Facebook informed the EU it wouldn’t combine data from WhatsApp with those from its other services, which also include Instagram and Facebook Messenger.

Brussels said Facebook “intentionally or negligently” offered regulators misleading information, a breach of strict EU merger rules.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager has now escalated the probe, giving Facebook until 31 January 2017 to respond. If found in breach, Facebook could face a fine of up to 1% of its annual sales.

Vestager said: "Our timely and effective review of mergers depends on the accuracy of the information provided by the companies involved. In this specific case, the Commission’s preliminary view is that Facebook gave us incorrect or misleading information during the investigation into its acquisition of WhatsApp. Facebook now has the opportunity to respond."