Irish judge says Google’s €2.4bn fine is ‘a small amount of cash’

Colm Mac Eochaidh remarks made at appeal hearing at General Court in Luxembourg

Google, a trillion-dollar company, is fighting regulators who fined it in 2017 for unfairly discriminating against smaller shopping search rivals.  File photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Google, a trillion-dollar company, is fighting regulators who fined it in 2017 for unfairly discriminating against smaller shopping search rivals. File photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

 

An Irish judge has described a €2.4 billion EU penalty levied on Google as “a small amount of cash” to the search engine giant.

Colm Mac Eochaidh, one of the five EU judges weighing Google’s appeal against the fine, made the allusion on day three of hearings at the EU’s General Court in Luxembourg. Google, a trillion-dollar company, is fighting regulators who fined it in 2017 for unfairly discriminating against smaller shopping search rivals.

Mr Mac Eochaidh urged Google’s lawyer to imagine he had savings of €120 in his back pocket but was fined €2.40 for dropping some litter. “Would you miss the €2.40?” the judge asked.

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

Mr 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.

Needled

It is not the first time Mr 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 Mr 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.