London, Dec 21 In a setback for Facebook, the European Commission (EC) has charged the social media giant with providing "incorrect information" during the investigation into its acquisition of the popular mobile messaging app WhatsApp.
Facebook could face fine of up to 1 per cent of its global turnover in 2014 (over $10 billion at that time) when the merger was approved, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.
"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," European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
Facebook, which has 1.71 billion users, has time till January 31 to respond to the charges.
"The Commission takes the preliminary view that, contrary to Facebook's statements and reply during the merger review, the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook users' IDs with WhatsApp users' IDs already existed in 2014," the statement added.
The EU move, however, will not have an impact on the approval of the $22 billion merger in 2014.
"Companies are obliged to give the commission accurate information during merger investigations. They must take this obligation seriously," added Vestager who has also demanded that tech giant Apple must pay back $14 billion in taxes to Ireland.
"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 spokesperson responded to the EU statement of objections.
Facebook, however, stopped the use of user data shared between WhatsApp and Facebook for advertising purposes in November.