Big tech companies are slapped with hefty fines almost every month, either for fixing prices, crushing competitors, or misusing data… but it can take years for these companies to pay a penny.
The Irish Data Regulatory Authority confirmed to AFP that “dead“Fines totaling 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) levied since September last year have yet to be paid.
For its part, it remainsAmazonLuxembourg’s data regulator told AFP that the company has been appealing a decision to impose a 746 million euro ($815 million) fine since 2021.
As for Google, it opposed the EU’s fine of more than 8 billion euros for abusing its market position from 2017 to 2019.
and struggle”camelA few years ago, he was fined 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) by French antitrust regulators and ordered to pay 13 billion euros ($14.2 billion) worth of taxes to Ireland.
The problem appears to be global, including tech companies of all sizes, not just the big four global players.
Australia announced this week the X platform (Twitter It has previously failed to pay a fine imposed for its failure to develop a plan to remove child sexual abuse content, and “X” is currently counter-suing.
Critics argue that fining tech companies will not deter their bad behavior and have called for tougher measures.
Challenge the law
Margareta Silva, a researcher at the Center for the Study of Transnational Corporations, a Dutch non-governmental organization, said: The reputation of technology companies has always been associated with “disruption.” “The failure to pay fines is consistent with the way we’ve seen big tech companies largely ignore any enforcement of the rules against them,” she said.
She added, “Even if the company ultimately fails, management will be forced to spend years by then.”
Silva explained that this is what separates the tech industry from other industries like finance, which still has an incentive to pay to appease the public and investors.
Romain Rahr, a lawyer in the Paris office of Jade Laurette Noel, said it was logical for the company to appeal against the hefty fine.
“This does not mean that companies can ignore fines, challenge decisions and hope for the best so they can get away without having to pay anything,” he told AFP.
Some companies have achieved remarkable results. Recently, billions of dollars in fines imposed on chip companies Intel, Qualcomm and other companies for monopolistic behavior have been canceled or significantly reduced.
The European system differs from judicial systems such as those in China or the United States, where fines often come at the end of lengthy proceedings and are announced as part of a settlement.
In 2019, Facebook paid a record $5 billion fine to the Federal Trade Commission over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
In 2021, e-commerce giant Alibaba informed investors that it had immediately paid a record fine of approximately $3 billion to Chinese regulators.
Activists argue that these companies are so wealthy that financial sanctions will not have a significant impact on them.
Max Schrems, an Austrian lawyer who has been fighting for data rights in Europe, said uneven application of the rules exacerbated the problem. But he emphasized that the Irish Data Regulatory Authority is very lenient towards companies in the appeal process and the fines are very low.
Graham Doyle, Ireland’s deputy data protection commissioner, defended his office’s records in an interview with AFP, stressing that fines were only part of the problem.
“We have completed the vast majority of our investigations, and while the fines have attracted the most attention, we have also taken corrective measures,” he stressed.
He referred to an investigation into Instagram’s handling of children’s data. Campaigners agree that fines can only be part of the solution.
Silva believes competition regulators should not be complacent with fines but should step up their game.
Silva urged a halt to future acquisitions and mergers in the industry and to undo past damage, possibly even breaking up companies.
“If Mita wasn’t allowed to buy Instagram and WhatsApp, her problems would be completely different,” she said.