Irish judge says Google's €2.4bn fine is like loose change

Pedro Gonçalves
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Irish judge says Google's €2.4bn fine is like loose change

Google and the EU battled in court as the search engine giant is appealing a €2.4bn ($2.6bn) fine from 2017 for ill-treating rivals of its Shopping service.

Colm Mac Eochaidh, one of the five judges weighing the Silicon Valley juggernaut's appeal,  described the €2.4bn EU penalty levied as "a small amount of cash" to the search engine giant.

Mac Eochaidh urged Google's lawyer to imagine he had savings of €120 in his back pocket but was fined €2.4 for dropping some litter. "Would you miss the €2.4?" the judge asked on day three of hearings at the EU's General Court in Luxembourg. 

€2.4bn is an eye-catching amount, it might attract the headlines but it is not justified by the actual facts of this case"

According to regulators, Google abused its market power at the expense of its rivals in search results for online shopping.

The company again argued that its conduct was not anti-competitive while its market shares and the 13 countries where the infringement was committed did not justify the size of the multiplier. "€2.4bn is an eye-catching amount, it might attract the headlines but it is not justified by the actual facts of this case," said Google's lawyer Christopher Thomas during the hearing, according to Reuters.

The tech giant says it will also challenge two other EU fines, which were handed out in 2018 and 2019. They also involve an alleged abuse of market power, and are respectively related to the promotion of its apps (€4.3bn) and to blocking adverts coming from rival companies search engines (€1.5bn)

In 2017, the EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: "What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate."

She added: "Most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation."

A final ruling in the court case could be months away.

 

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