Amazon has been handed an $888 million fine by European Union regulators for breaching the bloc’s data protection laws. The fine is the largest issued by the EU, but is still less than one percent of the firm’s annual revenue.
The Luxembourg National Commission for Data Protection (CNPD) issued the fine earlier this month, and Amazon reported it on Friday in a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The CNPD issued the fine claiming that Amazon had processed customer data in violation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a tough privacy law that took effect in 2018. Amazon disputed the fine, calling it “without merit,” and stating that the firm would “defend ourselves vigorously in this matter.”
“There has been no data breach, and no customer data has been exposed to any third party,” Amazon added in a statement. “These facts are undisputed. We strongly disagree with the CNPD’s ruling.”
The fine is the largest penalty to date issued for a GDPR violation. The largest fine issued beforehand was a $57 million ruling against Google by French regulators in 2018. Nevertheless, while $887 million would be a staggering amount of money for most companies, for Amazon it represents a tiny slice of the firm’s annual takings. With sales buoyed by the closure of brick and mortar outlets during the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon recorded more than $383 billion in sales last year, enough to pay the EU fine 431 times over.
Under the GDPR, watchdogs like the CNPD can fine companies up to 4% of their annual global sales.
Amazon will appeal the fine, but even if the company loses, it can afford to shrug off nearly a billion dollars. However, the EU is also investigating Amazon for potentially breaking antitrust rules over its alleged use of data from third-party sellers to more strategically price its own products. Similar probes have been brought by Germany and the UK, and in the US, lawmakers from both parties have proposed using antitrust legislation to break up tech monopolies like Amazon and Google.
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