Facebook has been accused of lying to the European Commission following an investigation into its takeover of WhatsApp in 2014. The investigation concluded that Facebook supplied "incorrect or misleading information" when asked about its plans to link WhatsApp user data with Facebook.

When reviewing Facebook's planned acquisition of WhatsApp in August 2014, the European Commission looked at if it would be possible for Facebook to link users' accounts to their WhatsApp profiles. At the time Facebook replied that it was would not be possible to create a reliable system for matching user accounts, however in August this year WhatsApp announced that users' phone numbers would be linked to their Facebook profiles in order to provide better friend suggestions and more relevant advertising.

The Commission believes that Facebook was aware that a system for linking WhatsApp user phone numbers to Facebook accounts existed in 2014, and has accused the company breaching EU regulations by "intentionally, or negligently, submitted incorrect or misleading information to the Commission".

Facebook could be fined up to 1% of its annual turnover if found to be in violation of European merger policy.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Companies are obliged to give the Commission accurate information during merger investigations. They must take this obligation seriously. Our timely and effective review of mergers depends on the accuracy of the information provided by the companies involved.

"In this specific case, the Commission's preliminary view is that Facebook gave us incorrect or misleading information during the investigation into its acquisition of WhatsApp."

Facebook has been given until 31 January 2017 to respond to the allegations. The company has since been forced to abandon its plans to collect WhatsApp user data due to widespread condemnation by data protection authorities, including the UK Information Commissioner's Office, who said Facebook did not have valid consent from users.

A Facebook spokesperson said: "We respect the Commission's process and are confident that a full review of the facts will confirm Facebook has acted in good faith. We've consistently provided accurate information about our technical capabilities and plans, including in submissions about the WhatsApp acquisition and in voluntary briefings before WhatsApp's privacy policy update this year.

"We're pleased that the Commission stands by its clearance decision, and we will continue to cooperate and share information officials need to resolve their questions."