Judge Agrees to Pause Payments of Amazon’s €746 Million GDPR Fine

Amazon has disputed the €746 million fine it was hit under the GDPR. A report says a judge agreed to pause payments.

Back in August, we reported on the massive €746 million fine Amazon was hit with due to GDPR violations. At the time, it easily became the single largest fine ever handed out by regulators. In some regards, it was almost a response to critics who suggest that the fines being handed out up to that point are too small and aren’t enough to make a difference. That fine did manage to silence some criticism over the GDPR laws.

Of course, at the time, we did note that Amazon was reportedly not happy with the fine. In response, they are fighting it. A month ago, Amazon had submitted a challenge to the fine. From Pymnts:

An Amazon attorney told European Union officials that the eCommerce giant has received no corrective action guidance from EU regulators on how to comply with a July order to pay a privacy fine of 746 million euros (about $844 million) and therefore should not be responsible for a potential daily fine of 746,000 euros (about $844,000), Bloomberg reported.

The deadline for Amazon to undertake the required changes is Jan. 15, 2022, according to the report. However, while the appeal is ongoing, the retailer is not required to pay the fine.

So, according to Amazon, there is nothing telling them what corrective action needed to be taken. The question is, will a judge agree to this? As it turns out, the answer is “yes” according to a report on the Register:

Amazon is set for an early Christmas present as a Luxembourg judge suspended a court order requiring a daily $750,000 payment towards a disputed $844m (€746m) fine.

Amazon said it would challenge the ruling, which it deemed to have no merit.

In a statement to The Register at the time, the global e-commerce behemoth said: “Maintaining the security of our customers’ information and their trust are top priorities. There has been no data breach, and no customer data has been exposed to any third party. These facts are undisputed. We strongly disagree with the CNPD’s ruling, and we intend to appeal.

“The decision relating to how we show customers relevant advertising relies on subjective and untested interpretations of European privacy law, and the proposed fine is entirely out of proportion with even that interpretation.”

In a sense, some of the legitimacy that was hard won through this fine might also be on the line. The image of large tech giants simply buying and selling personal information without consequence or responsibility is certainly a big one. Part of that is thanks to past incidences especially from Facebook. One of the ultimate goals for GDPR is to set a privacy standard that everyone follows. Of course, a big obstacle is the seemingly unstoppable big tech companies. Some might look at the situation and think that the rules might nail a few smaller players, but the largest players will generally remain unscathed.

When the Amazon fine came and it was so large, it became much harder to say that the large tech giant’s will simply continue with business as usual. Probably the least surprising thing is that Amazon disputed it. Now that we know that a judge has agreed to allow the halting of payments while the fine gets challenged, the idea that large tech giants will find a way to worm out of accountability is now seemingly being put back on the table for those who are no fans of large tech giants in the first place.

What’s more is that if regulators managed to get the largest fine ever levied against a company wrong, that is going to sting the reputation of regulators. At that point, people might see particularly large fines as simply a decision, who knows if they managed to get it right. That scenario would be extremely disappointing because regulators should have known that a lot of eyes are going to be trained on this case. For one, the fine is massive. For another, the fine was put on a company with a profile as high as Amazon. So, getting it right the first time would be paramount. So, checking everything to make sure everything is right many times over would almost be an expectation.

At this point, it’ll be interesting to see where this challenge heads. At the moment, Amazon seems to have gotten a pretty big and critical victory of sorts for the time being. We’ll have to see if these victories continue and withstand appeals processes or not. After all, a lot could be riding on this one.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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