Facebook received a $122 million fine on Thursday from the European Union’s antitrust regulators, who say the social media giant provided misleading information during its 2014 acquisition of the messenger app WhatsApp. According to regulators, Facebook claimed at the time to be unable to automatically link the accounts of both Facebook and WhatsApp users. By August 2016, however, WhatsApp announced that it would start sharing its data, including users’ phone numbers, with Facebook.
The European Commission, which manages the EU’s day-to-day operations, claims that Facebook staffers knew the company was capable of automatically matching users’ identities back in 2014. Facebook issued a statement on Thursday, insisting that the errors were “unintentional” and did not affect the outcome of the acquisition. “We’ve acted in good faith since our very first interactions with the Commission and we’ve sought to provide accurate information at every turn,” the company said, adding that “today’s announcement brings this matter to a close.”
While the fine has no impact on the merger between Facebook and WhatsApp, it establishes a firm precedent for future acquisitions. “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,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief, in a statement on Wednesday. “The commission must be able to take decisions about mergers’ effects on competition in full knowledge of accurate facts.”