Google's $2.6bn fine is like loose change, judge says

Google is fighting regulators who fined it in 2017 for unfairly discriminating against smaller shopping search rivals.

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    Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer at Google's parent company Alphabet, which has been fined billions of dollars by European regulators  [File: Michael Short/Bloomberg]
    Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer at Google's parent company Alphabet, which has been fined billions of dollars by European regulators [File: Michael Short/Bloomberg]

    Google's 2.4 billion-euro ($2.6 billion) fine is "a small amount of cash" to the search-engine giant, according to one of the five European Union judges weighing its appeal of the EU penalty.

    Colm Mac Eochaidh, an Irish judge, made the allusion on day three of hearings at the EU's General Court in Luxembourg, where the trillion-dollar company is fighting regulators who fined it in 2017 for unfairly discriminating against smaller shopping search rivals.

    Mac Eochaidh urged Google's lawyer to imagine he had savings of 120 euros in his back pocket but was fined 2.4 euros for dropping some litter.

    "Would you miss the 2.4 euros?" the judge asked.

    Google attorney Christopher Thomas replied that he would, in this hypothetical incident, be "struck by the infringement finding," which would be "a very serious matter."

    Mac Eochaidh also contradicted Google's assertion that the court couldn't increase a fine without regulators' request, laying out how the court might decide to do that. A final ruling in the court case could be months away.

    It isn't the first time Mac Eochaidh has needled Google during the three days of hearings on the appeal. On Thursday, he said it was "perfectly apparent" that the company had promoted its own services and demoted others - a key point for the EU side.

    The Google hearing is the most high-profile case Mac Eochaidh has been involved in since he joined the Luxembourg-based tribunal in 2017. He made a reputation in Ireland for sparking an inquiry into planning permission and political corruption that unveiled payments made to government ministers.

    SOURCE: Bloomberg