LUXEMBOURG — Google went to the EU General Court to appeal a €2.42 billion fine imposed by Brussels, but one of the judges hearing the case on Friday unexpectedly suggested that the penalty should actually be higher.
Irish Judge Colm Mac Eochaidh, one of five panel judges, said the 2017 fine for Googles preferential treatment of its own shopping service over rivals could be increased as it may not have been sufficient to deter the search giant from repeating its behavior.
He criticized the European Commission for not sufficiently explaining why it had imposed that exact fine, before making his radical suggestion that it could have been higher. His idea was made in open discussion and was not a concrete suggestion that the judges would take that course.
In its decision finding that Google had leveraged its dominance in general search, as the main entry point to the internet, to favor its own comparison shopping service over rivals, the Commission set out its methodology to calculate the fine.
Brussels set a basic amount based on the revenue of Googles comparison shopping service in the 13 national markets where Google had acted anticompetitively during the last year of that behavior, which was 2016. Brussels then multiplied that amount by 1.3 to deter Google and other companies “of a similar size” from engaging in similar behavior and to reflect the size of Googles overall turnover of over €81 billion in 2016.
Judge Mac Eochaidh criticized the absence of a detailed justification of that multiplier.
“Have you plucked a figure out of the air in terms of deterrence?” he asked the Commission.
The Commissions lawyer Anthony Dawes responded: “Alphabet [Googles parent company] has a particularly large turnover, which justifies both the fact that the Commission applied a multiplier and the level of that mulitiplier.”
But the judge then referred to the intentionality of Googles conduct and suggested the court could actually increase the level of the fine.
“Have you been sufficiently deterred from repeating the behavior?” the judge asked Googles lawyer, referring to recent complaints from online travel companies Expedia and Tripadvisor about “very similar” behavior.
Mac Eochaidh asked Googles lawyer a last question, which he said European citizens would also ask: “You have been fined a large amount, but was it sufficient? Imagine you were fined €2.4 by your local authority for littering and you had €120 in your pocket — would you miss the €2.4?”
“I would be struck by the infringement finding. It is a very serious matter. It would be for myself and it is for Google,” responded Google lawyer Christopher Thomas.
When the Irish judge questioned the pRead More – Source