Published: Thu, May 18, 2017
Money | By Armando Alvarado

Facebook cops $122M fine from European Union over WhatsApp acquisiton

Facebook cops $122M fine from European Union over WhatsApp acquisiton

European Union antitrust regulators on Thursday said they would fine Facebook 110 million euros (122.4 million dollars) for providing misleading information over its purchase of messaging service WhatsApp in 2014.

The Commission previously expressed concern that the social media giant had not correctly communicated planned changes to its privacy policy.

Facebook said in December that it was facing a potential fine over the matter from the European Commission.

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the fine is proportionate and serves as a deterrent. It points out that Facebook committed two infringements.

The European Commission said Facebook had informed its anti-trust body, in submissions ahead of t he $19bn (£15.3bn) buyout, it would be unable to "establish reliable automated matching" between Facebook and WhatsApp user accounts. It stated this both in the notification form and in a reply to a request of information from the Commission.

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This obligation applies, regardless of whether the information has an impact on the ultimate outcome of the merger assessment according to the Commission.

However, two years later, in August 2016, it launched a service that did exactly that - Facebook essentially updated its privacy policy to allow linking between WhatsApp users' phone numbers and Facebook users' identities. The Commission has also considered the existence of mitigating circumstances, notably the fact that Facebook cooperated with the Commission during the procedural infringement proceedings.

After investigating, the Commission concluded that Facebook must have known of this possibility at the time of the merger, and thus mislead the Commission.

In statement, Microsoft said: "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".

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