European regulators hit Facebook with $122M fine for ‘misleading information’ in WhatsApp buy

(Facebook Photo)

European regulators levied a fine against Facebook of $110 million euros — or $122 million U.S. — for providing “misleading information” related to the social network’s acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014.

During vetting of the acquisition with the European Commission in 2014, Facebook said it could not automatically match Facebook and WhatsApp user accounts. But it turns out that was possible, and about two years later WhatsApp updated its terms and conditions, including a mention of potentially linking WhatsApp users’ phone numbers with Facebook users’ identities.

The commission later found matching profiles was technically possible at the time of the merger, and Facebook staff knew about it.

“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,” Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy, said in a statement. “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.”

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update this post when we hear back.

The commission said these infractions, while serious, do not impact its decision to sign off on the merger in 2014.

The commission could have fined Facebook up to 1 percent of turnover, a figure Reuters put at $276 million. Facebook acknowledged that it broke the rules, cooperated with the commission and waived its rights to a hearing. The commission took these factors into account when deciding the fine.