At $19 billion, the instant messaging service WhatsApp is Facebook's second largest acquisition ever. The Menlo Park-based social media giant bought the said company back in 2014 and back then, the European Union approved this transaction after ruling that there are no antitrust concerns directly related to the deal. However, that stance changed today after the European Commission issued an antitrust complaint against Facebook, alleging that the Californian firm provided misleading information about the takeover back in early 2014.
Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner in charge of regulating competition stated that Facebook failed to provide accurate information when the Commission was investigating the company's purchase of WhatsApp a couple of years ago. Vestager's main complaint is aimed at Facebook's statement that WhatsApp accounts cannot be effectively paired with Facebook accounts, which is what the Menlo Park-based company claimed back when the European Commission was investigating its acquisition of the said IM service. However, after WhatsApp started sharing data with Facebook this August, the European antitrust watchdog took another look into this merger. According to the Commission's preliminary findings, Facebook already had the technology to match WhatsApp user IDs with Facebook user IDs back in 2014. Given how the social media giant claimed otherwise, Vestager now believes that the company either mislead the European investigators or negligently submitted factually incorrect information.
It's worth pointing out that this is just a complaint that won't necessarily amount to anything. Facebook now has the opportunity to respond to these allegations, while the European Commission will continue probing the company's acquisition of WhatsApp. In a statement published earlier today, one of Facebook's representatives stated that the social media giant acted "in good faith" during its dealings with the European Commission and clearly stated its future intentions regarding WhatsApp. Finally, Facebook explicitly asserted it will continue cooperating with the European officials as long as they have concerns about the said merger. Given how much controversy the company caused by the said WhatsApp policy change, it may be a while before this situation is resolved. For the time being, Facebook's subsidiary was forced to stop sharing user data with its parent company in Europe, and the European Union is currently in the process of enacting stricter laws regulating communications apps. It remains to be seen how long the Commission will take to give a final opinion on Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp. As things stand right now, the company could be facing fines amounting to up to 1% of its annual revenue.