Facebook has been dealt a hefty slap on the wrist by Brussels, which today handed the social media giant a €110m (£94.5m) fine for misleading it during a probe into its acquisition of WhatsApp.
In a statement today the European Commission said Facebook had misled it about the possibility of automatically matching up Facebook and Whatsapp users' accounts as it was mulling the merger of the two companies back in 2014.
At the time, Facebook said it wasn't possible - but in August last year, WhatsApp made an update to its terms of service which suggested it was planning to link up Facebook users' accounts with their WhatsApp accounts. What's more, the EC suggested, not only had it been technically possible since 2014 when the investigation was taking place, but Facebook staff were fully aware of it.
The move is the first time Brussels has handed out a fine to a company for such an offence since new merger rules came into force in 2004.
The EC said today the misleading information had no impact on its decision to give the green light to the merger, but said in this case, Facebook had been "negligent".
"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 EC's competition commissioner.
"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."
A spokesperson for Facebook said:
“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 errors we made in our 2014 filings were not intentional and the Commission has confirmed that they did not impact the outcome of the merger review. Today's announcement brings this matter to a close.”