The deal, which carries a price tag of $19 billion, was announced to the public in February. Three months after the announcement, Facebook requested a review on the details of its acquisition from the European Commission (EC) as an attempt to evade separate investigations from the different countries of the region.
Being the main competition authority of the European Union (EU), the European Commission is gearing up to open a formal merger review that could become the benchmark for determining the levels of antitrust, unfair competition and data monopoly. By gathering data from the questionnaires, the EC would have in-depth information on how to apply the union's competition law in the growing app economy and in the increasing presence of social media.
The questionnaires that were sent to a number of technology and online-messaging companies focused mainly on how the merging of Facebook and WhatsApp will create a stronger market competition. Additionally, they asked about how companies manipulate and use private data with their services.
There are at least two mobile messaging app companies that have expressed their concerns to the EC. The most significant is the issue on market share and how the merging between Facebook and WhatsApp would drive rival companies out of the competition.
Some lawyers and privacy supporters are arguing that the merging would make Facebook a "data monopolist." This would definitely give an advantage to the social media site as it can use the massively gathered data of users as entry barriers to rival companies.
"This is a bit of a toe in the water for the commission," said an antitrust lawyer. The lawyer, who's also based in Brussels, added that "it's the first time they'll look at social media seriously in terms of market power issues."
The EC "may look at whether the service is likely to remain practically free," said by Jose Luis Buendia, a former antitrust official. "Users could theoretically migrate to another system if prices increased, but that would require a coordinated move by millions of people."
Prior to sending out the questionnaires, officials have also reviewed the acquisition deal between Microsoft and Skype. They are still looking into how these tools on instant and video messaging could play a role in social media-based deals.
On a different note, the merger was approved by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in April, defying anti-merging efforts made by privacy supporters. The reason is fairly simple; just like the markets of Asia which is dominated by KakaoTalk, LINE and WeChat, the US is also overflowing with competition.