Facebook, WhatsApp sit on cold steel table as Euro Commish ponders painful probe

Your hospital gowns are gaping, chaps

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Rivals of Facebook and WhatsApp have been asked to complete a whopping 88 multiple-choice, multi-part questions that range from the blindingly obvious – “To the best of your knowledge, do users use more than one social networking service?" – to the vague and indefinable – “Please provide any recent examples of consumers switching from one social networking service to another.”

That’s just a taste of the list of posers sent to the social network and comms app's rivals as the European Commission's competition branch considers whether or not to launch an investigation into a proposed takeover.

The questionnaire is the first step towards launching a formal investigation. If the Commission’s Competition department thinks that there would be a negative effect in the markets for consumer communications services, social networking services and online advertising, it could hold up any deal while it investigates further and could ultimately block it.

Questions 45 and 46 get to the nub of the matter: “As a result of the Facebook/WhatsApp transaction, do you expect the users of WhatsApp to face greater difficulties in switching to another consumer communications service/app? Do you expect that post-transaction there will remain sufficient alternative providers of consumer communications services/apps?

However many of the questions such as “In your opinion, how easy (in terms of time, cost and convenience) is it for consumers to start using a new social networking service?” seemed to have been pulled from an old telco questionnaire.

It seems the Commission is attempting to define a new market it is not familiar with as well as distinguish between social networks and communications tools: “In your view, is it appropriate to distinguish social networking services/apps according to any other segmentation, based on their use by customers?” (In other words: “Help, what should we call this?”)

The Commission is also trying to work out whether an app or service offered on multiple operating systems is a single or multiple product.

Rivals are also asked to list the five strongest providers of consumer communications services, identify which functionalities of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp users predominantly use and whether they are interchangeable with other voice, video and messaging services as well as to sum up what it means for competition:

"As a result of the Facebook/WhatsApp transaction, do you expect that it will be more difficult for WhatsApp's competitors to expand their user base or to launch a new consumer communications service/app in the European Economic Area?"

The US Federal Trade Commission waved through the deal in April with a short caveat about giving users notice about any alterations to their privacy settings.

Facebook then asked the European Commission to look at the merger in May, despite WhatsApp being insufficiently large to trigger a formal examination. Presumably Facebook wants to head off a possible 28 different competition investigations in member states.

Companies have until 8 September to fill in the headache-inducing questionnaire and the Commission has said it will give some sort of response – be that an extension to the preliminary probe or the launch of a full investigation – by 3 October. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
Microsoft EU warns: If you have ties to the US, Feds can get your data
European corps can't afford to get complacent while American Big Biz battles Uncle Sam
prev story


Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.