Facebook Hit With EU Fine Over WhatsApp Deal
The Wall Street Journal (May 18, Drozdiak) has learned that Facebook Inc. was fined €110 million (US$122.7 million) by the European Union's antitrust regulator on Thursday for providing incorrect information or misleading authorities over the acquisition of its messaging unit WhatsApp." The fine represents a warning shot to other companies registering their deals for review. According to the EU, Facebook inaccurately claimed during the merger review three years ago that it could not routinely match Facebook and WhatsApp user accounts -- something the social media giant began doing two years later when it started combining user data throughout the services. "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," comments EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.
Fortune (May 18) notes that Facebook has issued a statement in which it assured the errors made in its 2014 filings were unintentional and that the European Commission had confirmed they had not affected the merger review's outcome. "The fine would not reverse the Commission's decision to clear the purchase of WhatsApp," states the publication, "and was unrelated to separate investigations into data protection issues." The Commission could have fined Facebook up to 1 percent of its turnover, which would have amounted to $276 million based on 2016 results. Facebook was commended for cooperating with the proceedings and for admitting its infringement. The sanction comes during the same week when Facebook was hit with a separate $167,000 fine by a French data watchdog for failing to prevent its users' data from being accessed by advertisers. A week earlier, Fortune adds, "the Italian antitrust authorit