Officials from the European Union’s central competition authority, the European Commission, sent detailed questionnaires to rival online messaging companies as part of the EC’s pending investigation of Facebook’s $19 billion deal to acquire WhatsApp, which was initially announced in February.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the questionnaires asked about the impact of the merger on competition in those online messaging outfits’ markets, as well as seeking information about how their services control and use personal data.
Facebook requested an EC review of the transaction in May, in hopes of avoiding separate investigations by authorities from multiple countries in the region.
An antitrust lawyer based in Brussels told the Journal:
This is a bit of a toe in the water for the commission. It’s the first time they’ll look at social media seriously in terms of market-power issues. The real issue is how narrowly you define the market.
And Jose Luis Buendia of Brussels-based law firm Garrigues, a former EC antitrust official, told the Journal:
(The EC) may look at whether the service is likely to remain practically free. Users could theoretically migrate to another system if prices increased, but that would require a coordinated move by millions of people.
Readers: Will the EC end up approving Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp?
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