Facebook has contacted European Union authorities to ask for an antitrust probe for its very own $16+3 billion WhatsApp acquisition, according to the WSJ. The move looks like a tactical one as the transaction is huge and historic and Facebook may feel obliged to take preventive steps against a future widespread probe wave in multiple member countries.
The deal has created discomfort among Europe’s telecom giants who suddenly saw influential Facebook as a rival in messaging business. They believe that WhatsApp, which offers extremely cheap (in some cases, free) text and picture messaging through Wi-Fi and 3G connection, may be used by Facebook to elevate its position in the EU market to a dominant position and eventually may harm big telecoms’ relevant businesses and the economy.
To avoid the future disturbances to its EU operations, Facebook wants European Commission to clear the acquisition on the Union level via, if necessary, an EU-wide probe. WSJ says the Commission has already informed national competition authorities of the request.
If the Commission holds the probe and eventually clears the transaction, the verdict will be binding for all national governments. Otherwise, each country will have the right to make their own conclusions on whether Facebook violates antitrust laws or not. That certainly will require a large group of Facebook lawyers to collect and provide individual sets of information for national regulators and fight at the court rooms across Europe for many months.
The acquisition deal is the biggest of its kind in internet history. It was approved by the US Federal Trade Commission in April.