European Commission fines Facebook €110 million

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  • EU regulators have confirmed they are hitting Facebook with a €110 million fine for providing "incorrect or misleading" information to European Union officials in 2014, who at the time were reviewing the social network’s proposed acquisition of WhatsApp for $19.3 billion.

    The European Commission, the EU institution that is tasked with investigating mergers and acquisitions in order to uphold the EU’s antitrust and competition law, has imposed the fine because Facebook failed to disclose in 2014 that it had the potential to automatically match Facebook user data with WhatsApp data.

    A European Commission spokesperson explained: "The Commission has found that, 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 that Facebook staff were aware of such a possibility.”

    While the EC had the power to impose a much larger fine (up to 1% of Facebook’s global turnover, which would have amounted to $276 million using 2016 figures), the EU’s Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said the scale of this fine still made it clear that companies that operate in the EU have an obligation to comply with EU regulations and disclose all the facts to EU officials: "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."

    Facebook issued a formal statement in response to the fine, accepting the European Commission’s ruling but insisting that the error it made in 2014 was not intentional: "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.

    "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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