Wednesday 31 May 2017

Facebook Fined £94 Million For 'Incorrect Or Misleading' Information In £15 Billion Whatsapp Takeover

Facebook has been slapped with a 110 million euro (£94.5 million/ $123 million) fine after the EU's anti-trust watchdog said it provided 'incorrect or misleading' information regarding its $19 billion (£15.3 billion) takeover of WhatsApp.

The European Commission said the social network inaccurately claimed it would be unable to combine user data between the two companies' accounts.

'Contrary to Facebook's statements in the 2014 merger review process, the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook and WhatsApp users' identities already existed in 2014, and Facebook staff were aware of such a possibility,' the commission said.

It added that the ruling does not affect its decision to approve the merger.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who has recently put the tax affairs of a number of high-profile firms including Apple, Amazon and Google under the microscope, said the sanction was 'proportionate and deterrent'.

She added: '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.

'And 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 Commission can fine a company as much as 1 per cent of its global turnover, which in Facebook's case could have reached $276 million (£212 million) based on its 2016 revenue.

The move by the European Commission will come after a six-month investigation. 

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in March told a news conference that a small handful of companies may have provided misleading information when they sought approval for their mergers.
The EU sanction will come on the heels of a 150,000-euro ($167,000 / £128 000) fine handed down by a French data watchdog to Facebook on Tuesday for failing to prevent its users' data being accessed by advertisers.

Italian antitrust authorities levied a 3-million-euro fine ($3.3 million/ £2.6 million) on WhatsApp last week for allegedly obliging users to agree to share their personal data with Facebook.

'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', a Facebook spokesperson told MailOnline.

'The errors we made in our 2014 filings were not intentional and the Commission has confirmed that they did not impact the outcome of the merger review. Today's announcement brings this matter to a close.'

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