The European Commission is accusing Facebook of “intentionally or negligently” submitted misleading information during its investigation into the $19 billion WhatsApp takeover back in 2014. The statement of objections sent to Facebook centers on the company's recent linking of Facebook and WhatsApp user accounts, something that it had previously told the Commission it would not be able to automate reliably.
The company will have until the end of January to respond to the accusation that it breached EU procedural rules for the approval of mergers. "Our timely and effective review of mergers depends on the accuracy of the information provided by the companies involved. In this specific case, the Commission’s preliminary view is that Facebook gave us incorrect or misleading information during the investigation into its acquisition of WhatsApp. Facebook now has the opportunity to respond,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
There's no risk that the Commission will go back on its approval of the merger. However, if the allegations are confirmed, Facebook could receive a fine of up to 1% of its global revenue. That could work out to up to $179 million based on Facebook’s revenue last year.
Users of the messanging platform were given the ability to opt out of sending information to Facebook through settings in WhatsApp's applications on smartphones.
"We respect the Commission's process and are confident that a full review of the facts will confirm Facebook has acted in good faith”, a Facebook spokeswoman said.