The European Commission fined Facebook €110 million for providing incorrect or misleading information during the Commission’s investigation of Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp under the EU Merger Regulation back in 2014.

During the acquisition process in 2014 Facebook notified the Commission in writing that automated matching between Facebook identities and WhatsApp phone numbers would not be possible. This information was set out in writing in the notification form and in a reply to a request of information from the Commission in 2014. However in 2016 WhatsApp updated its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy which included the ability to link WhatsApp phone numbers to Facebook accounts.

Originally the transaction was cleared on 3 October 2014 after an assessment about its impact on the internal market for consumer communications services, social networking services and online advertising. However after a recent investigation, the Commission has now found that the technical possibility did exist in 2014 and Facebook staff were aware of this. The Commission determined that Facebook therefore provided incorrect and misleading information in the merger notification form and in the reply to a Commission request for information at the time of the acquisition, which prevented the Commission from having all relevant information for assessing the transaction.

The Commission took into account the company’s cooperation (Facebook acknowledged its infringement of the rules, waived its procedural rights to access to the file, and waived its rights to a hearing) but it determined the overall fine based on the seriousness of the infringement. This is the first occasion where the Commission imposed a fine on a company for this breach since the entry into force of the 2004 Merger Regulation.

A press release from the EU Commission can be found here.