An antitrust fine of 2.4 billion euros ($2.6 billion) for search engine giant Google is “a small sum of money,” an EU judge has said. The judge said Google’s fine could be increased, and Google is seeking to overturn the penalty. On the third day of a hearing at the General Court of the European Union’s General Court, Judge Colm Mac Eochaidh, from Ireland, continued to question Google’s defence lawyers. It said the court had the power to increase the amount of $2.6 billion in fines Google would receive in 2017.
That year, it was the highest-paid fine ever issued by the European Commission in an antitrust case. In the coming months, the European Union’s “comprehensive court” will rule on whether Google discriminates against smaller online shopping rivals, and Mr Eichad is one of five judges to hear the case.
Echard asked Google’s defense attorney, “Does such a high fine prevent you from repeating this behavior?” The fine, he says, doesn’t make much sense for Google because it’s “a small amount of money on your hands, so it doesn’t really get much attention.”
At the hearing, Google did not anticipate the possibility of higher fines when it protested the EU’s antitrust findings in 2017. U.S. Justice Department officials, EU investigators and Google executives attended the hearing. At the hearing, Google said EU regulators had gone too far and made a major mistake. It is the first of three appeals against the EU’s antitrust ruling, which could have to stop strict enforcement of big technology companies if the EU loses.
Christopher Thomas, Google’s defence lawyer, said fines could not be increased because THE EU’s antitrust agency had not asked for an increase in the amount of the penalty. Mr Eichad immediately countered, saying the EU’s “comprehensive court” had “unlimited jurisdiction” to increase the amount of the penalty, although the issue had not yet been explored.
Stephane Gervasoni, another judge who reviewed the case, stopped Mr. Echard from further questioning Google’s defense lawyers and asked if the inquiry was theoretical or whether there were practical reasons for increasing the fine. In general, one judge rarely challenges another at trial. The judges who heard the case appeared to no longer consider the possibility of a higher fine for the case, stressing that any such move would require more legal analysis and give Google the opportunity to comment.
At the three-day appeal hearing, Yoced was not the first to drop Google. On Thursday, he said it was clear that Google was promoting its own online shopping service and cracking down on rival services, a key reason the European Union had punished Google that year.
On Friday, Mr. Yoched urged Google’s defence lawyers to imagine that if he had 120 euros in his pocket, he would have been fined 2.4 euros for littering.
“Do you feel the pain of this 2.4 euros?” asked the judge.