Facebook seeks EU anti-trust probe to prevent multi-state proceedings

Facebook wants the European Union to launch anti-trust proceedings into its deal to buy WhatsApp in order to prevent a litany of similar cases taking place across a number of member states.

Related: Why did Facebook pay $19bn or WhatsApp?

People familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that the social network wants the $19 billion [£11.36 billion] deal to be reviewed in order to prevent national antitrust watchdogs in each of the 28 nations from launching separate cases against the company.

"Facebook might prefer to go to the commission than go before several national regulators, which would each ask it for information," said Thomas Graf, an antitrust lawyer with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.

Antitrust experts are of the opinion that the EC will be more neutral than national authorities that would be at risk of heavy lobbying from local groups like national telecoms conglomerates and the EC has already informed national competition authorities of Facebook’s request.

It was unlikely that Facebook would have faced scrutiny from the EU as the takeover won’t boost Facebook’s revenue, the normal trigger for a case of this ilk, and the site has decided to use a provision that allows companies to ask for one probe if three or more separate ones are expected.

That would mean national authorities have 15 days to lodge a complaint over the EU taking control and Facebook is reportedly worried about probes coming from the UK, Spain and Cyprus. To that end the Cypriot authority’s director wouldn’t comment due to an “ongoing procedure regarding this matter” and the UK equivalent stated that it was “too early” to comment. The Spanish competition authority, meanwhile, provided no comment.

The multi-billion dollar deal has already seen scrutiny over in the US where the Federal Trade Commission launched a probe that resulted in the two having to give notice and consent to consumers before sharing information beyond privacy settings.

Related: Zuckerberg claims Whatsapp worth more than $19bn while users migrate to rival platforms

Over in Europe it has also already been subject to criticism from the likes of a German privacy watchdog that warned consumers to delete both apps due to privacy concerns.