European Commission charges Facebook over WhatsApp deal

It could be fined up to 1% of its annual sales for submitting inaccurate information

European Commission charges Facebook over WhatsApp deal

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Facebook has been charged with providing "incorrect or misleading information" during its takeover of WhatsApp in 2014.

European Union antitrust regulators have sent the complaint to the social media giant, which now faces fines of as much as 1% of its annual sales. Given its latest account show it taking in over $17bn (€16.41bn), this could mean a penalty of more than $170m (€164.06m).

The European Commission stated that EU approval for the $19bn (€18.34bn) Facebook-WhatsApp deal isn't at risk. Facebook now has until January 31st to respond.

The company had told regulators back in August 2014 that it wouldn't be able to establish "reliable automated matching between the two companies' user accounts".

The Commission now believes that this was actually possible at the time and that Facebook "intentionally or negligently" submitted inaccurate information, which breached EU merger rules.

Facebook said in a statement:

"We respect the Commission's process and are confident that a full review of the facts will confirm Facebook has acted in good faith.

"We've consistently provided accurate information about our technical capabilities and plans, including in submissions about the WhatsApp acquisition and in voluntary briefings before WhatsApp's privacy policy update this year."

Facebook is also being investigated by European privacy regulators over the deal, with the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information deeming Facebook's practices to be an infringement of data protection law and noting that "effective approval" had not been obtained from the messaging app's 35 million users in Germany.

In September, it told Facebook that it must stop collecting and storing information about WhatsApp users in the country. The UK's Information Commissioner followed suit last month.

In late October, European privacy watchdogs issued a warning to WhatsApp over the policy change which allows the messaging company to share phone numbers with its parent company.

A grouping of the EU's 28 data protection authorities – known as the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party – sent a letter to the popular messaging service expressing "serious concerns regarding the sharing of information within the ‘Facebook family of companies.'"