With Decision on Facebook’s WhatsApp Acquisition Due Oct. 3, EC Sends Out Detailed Questionnaires

By David Cohen 

EuropeanUnionFlags650The European Commission, the antitrust authority of the European Union, will decide on Facebook’s proposed acquisition of cross-platform messaging service WhatsApp by Oct. 3, and the EC will do so armed with detailed information from questionnaires sent to companies including telecommunications operators, other social-networking sites and Internet-service providers, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The EC sent questionnaires to online messaging companies in July, seeking information on the impact of the merger on competition in those competitors’ markets, as well as how their services control and use personal data, the Journal reported at the time, but the second round of questionnaires is far more detailed, according to the Journal, which added that the EC is trying to determine the differences between social networks and messaging applications.

The Journal reported that the new questionnaires are nearly 70 pages long, with responses due Sept. 8, and questions including:

  • Do you consider traditional electronic communications services, such as voice calls, SMS, MMS, emails, etc., to be substitutable with the consumer communications services functionalities offered by your app(s)?
  • What distinctions can be drawn between services primarily designed to enable users to keep in touch with their existing friends and relatives, as opposed to services primarily designed to enable users to enter into contact with new people?
  • Which companies are the biggest competitors to Facebook around the world?
  • What could a combined Facebook and WhatsApp do with user data, and how could this affect advertising services, particularly the effectiveness of mobile ads?
  • Which of the following websites/apps in your view can be described as a provider of social networking services? Please tick as many boxes as you consider appropriate (the list includes dozens of services).

Facebook said in its Form 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in July that it was extending its deadline to close the WhatsApp deal by one year, to Aug. 19, 2015. If the transaction is not finalized by that date, Facebook must pay a $1 billion termination fee to WhatsApp and issue the company the equivalent of $1 billion worth of class-A shares of Facebook common stock.

Readers: Will the EC end up approving Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp?

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