Facebook fined for misleading EU over WhatsApp merger and 'unfair tracking' of customers in France

Facebook has been fined £94.5m after the EU’s anti-trust watchdog said it provided “incorrect or misleading” information regarding £15.3 billion takeover of WhatsApp.

The European Commission said the US social network inaccurately claimed it would be unable to combine user data between the two companies’ accounts.

“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 Facebook staff were aware of such a possibility,” the commission said.

It added that the ruling does not affect its decision to approve the merger.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who has recently put the tax affairs of a number of high-profile firms including Apple, Amazon and Google under the microscope, said the sanction was “proportionate and deterrent”.

She added: “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 has also been fined €150,000 (£128,000) by French authorities for “unfair tracking” of its users.

The social media giant made around £1.5bn in advertising in the UK last year. Together with Google it is by far the biggest media company in the UK.

The pair are expected to take 71 per cent of all online advertising in the UK by 2020, leading to concerns that their Duopoly will squeeze news publishers out of the market.

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