Facebook served with EU antitrust complaint

Facebook Inc. has been sent an antitrust complaint by European Union regulators, which accuses the social media company of misleading regulators when it sought approval to buy the WhatsApp messaging service in 2014.

The world’s biggest social network faces fines of up to 1 percent of annual sales for providing “incorrect or misleading information” during the EU’s 2014 review of the WhatsApp takeover.

Facebook Inc. has until January 31st  to respond to the European Commission. The EU have released a statement to confirm that the approval for the Facebook-WhatsApp deal isn’t at risk.

Facebook is the latest technology giant in the EU’s sights this year after it ordered Apple Inc. to repay some 13 billion euros ($13.5 billion) in back taxes and stepped up three separate antitrust investigations into Google’s behavior.

EU Competition Commissioner Margarethe Vestager said earlier this year that officials were asking Facebook questions over privacy policy changes that allowed advertising on Facebook and Instagram to draw upon data from WhatsApp.

Facebook informed regulators in August 2014 that it wouldn’t be able to establish “reliable automated matching between the two companies’ user accounts,” the EU said. It now takes the view that this was technically possible in 2014 and that Facebook “intentionally or negligently” submitted misleading information, breaching EU merger rules.

Facebook separately faces probes by European privacy regulators over its move to merge data with WhatsApp. It’s also being investigated by Germany’s antitrust authority on whether it unfairly forces users to sign up to restrictive privacy terms.