EU accuses Facebook of misleading it in WhatsApp takeover probe

Tue Dec 20, 2016 12:00pm EST
 
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By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission has charged Facebook Inc (FB.O: Quote) with providing misleading information during its takeover of the online messaging service WhatsApp, opening the company to a possible fine of 1 percent of its turnover.

However, the statement of objections sent to Facebook will not affect the EC's approval of the $22 billion merger in 2014, the Commission said in a statement on Tuesday.

Facebook becomes the latest Silicon Valley target of EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who has demanded Apple (AAPL.O: Quote) pay back $14 billion in taxes to Ireland and hit Google (GOOGL.O: Quote) with two market abuse investigations.

The issue regards a WhatsApp privacy policy change in August when it said it would share some users' phone numbers with parent company Facebook, triggering investigations by a number of EU data protection authorities.

The Commission said Facebook had indicated in its notification of the planned acquisition that it would be unable reliably to match the two companies' user accounts.

"The Commission's preliminary view is that Facebook gave us incorrect or misleading information during the investigation into its acquisition of WhatsApp," said Vestager.

The EU executive said it took the preliminary view that the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook users' IDs with those of WhatsApp already existed in 2014 when Facebook sought EU approval for the merger.

The Commission - which approved the transaction without conditions - said it did not only rely on the information about the possibility of matching user accounts when reviewing the deal.   Continued...

 
A 3D printed Whatsapp  logo is seen in front of a displayed stock graph in this illustration taken April 28, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration