back to article Facebook fined peanuts after Giphy staff quit and firm didn't tell UK competition regulators

British competition regulators have again fined Facebook, this time 0.005 per cent of its annual profits, for ignoring them – a move that's bound to have CEO Mark Zuckerberg sobbing for mercy. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) first locked horns with Facebook in 2020, when it demanded more information on the company' …

  1. Someone Else Silver badge

    CMA == empty bollocks

  2. msobkow Silver badge

    Nothing like regulators who have all the impact of a wet noodle.

    People have feared the concept of a world government. I fear we'll skip world government and go straight to a dystopian corporatocracy. :(

    1. Snowy Silver badge
      Facepalm

      I think that is overstating it's impact.

    2. HildyJ Silver badge
      FAIL

      I fear we already have

      Nuff said.

  3. Alumoi Silver badge
    Joke

    I fear we've skipped world government and went straight to a dystopian corporatocracy. :(

    Don't thank me, I'm just your average grammer nazi

    1. TimMaher Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: “grammer nazi”

      Grammar.

      1. PC Paul

        Re: “grammer nazi”

        *gone

  4. Ian Mason

    Surely we need a "totting up" system for corporate scofflaws

    OK, a few million in fines is chump change to the likes of Facebook. They can afford to ignore regulators.

    So, as well as fines, why not have system that says "If your business is fined X times in Y years, then you get an automatic penalty for being a scofflaw". It could be withdrawal of permission to operate in certain markets at all for a number of years, or an automatic fine set at a level that no business could ignore based on a significant percentage of profit or turnover, escalating rapidly if they do it again. So, if you're Facebook you can absorb the first few millions in fines, but the tens of billions in automatic fines for being a scofflaw you couldn't ignore.

    We do it in the UK for driving offences, why not for corporate ones?

    (For the non-Brits, you can lose your UK driving licence by committing too many relatively minor traffic offences within a sliding window of time. If you accumulate 12 penalty points within a three year period you get an automatic 1 year ban from driving; the minimum for any offence is 3 points, more serious offences carry more points.)

    1. Falmari Silver badge

      Re: Surely we need a "totting up" system for corporate scofflaws

      @Ian Mason "Surely we need a "totting up" system for corporate scofflaws"

      Who's to say that will not be the case?

      It seems to me that the regulators could look at Facebook's multiple failures to abide by the rules as evidence that they are not fit to buy out Giphy as any promises they make will not be honoured.

    2. ShadowSystems Silver badge

      Re: Surely we need a "totting up" system for corporate scofflaws

      First fine measured in Millions.

      Second fine measured in Billions.

      Third fine measured in Trillions.

      Make all fines attached to the C-level execs that can not be discharged through bankruptcy, they can't be fired/replaced/the fine thus discharged ("You're the captain of this ship, you stay at the helm & steer this thing right or you will *definitely* be going down lashed to the helm."), and the fine must be paid off within a reasonable time (under a year?) before the non-firing/non-replacing bit is lifted.

      Steer the ship into one set of rocks, the share holders may forgive you.

      Steer it into a second set of rocks, they may strap you to the bowsprit & use as a bumper.

      Do it a third time & they'll keelhaul you repeatedly while they consider something truely hideous to do to you for having done it.

      Hitting a company like FB for a few million won't even get noticed. Make it a few billion & they'll grunt at the sucker punch in the kidneys. Make it in the trillions & you can damn-well bet your ass they'll form an angry mob howling for your head.

      Sure, you are unlikely to pay off a billion dollar fine much less a trillion dollar one, *BUT THAT'S THE POINT*. It's not supposed to be a slap on the wrist, it's supposed to be a punishment to cause you not to do $Action again that triggered the fine in the first place.

      Not being able to discharge it via bankruptcy means you won't just change your name, move to some armpit of the world, & escape your obligations. You will be *legally required* to stay at the helm until the fine is paid in full. This will ensure that you are kept being grilled over the coals until the company can earn enough to start paying those shareholders again, start using black ink on the bottom line again, can claw it's way up out of the hole you put it in.

      Don't like it? Too bad. Don't do it again.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Surely we need a "totting up" system for corporate scofflaws

        This fine is *really* expensive. They only way I can afford to pay it is to sell company assets.

        Let's sell all the domain names, servers, etc, to The Social Network Group Inc.

        Oh, wait, I didn't get enough from the sale to pay the fine. What now?

    3. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Re: Surely we need a "totting up" system for corporate scofflaws

      We are pussy footing round the yanks again. They finebp billions for some yank corporations fuck up and we find them a few pennies to avoid offending them. I would block them and fine them their annual turnover for a first offence, a second offence would be permanently blocked and their last 10 years turnover

  5. UCAP Silver badge

    Sooner or later...

    Facebook/Meta is going to stick its neck out too far, and someone with a big enough axe is going to chop it off.

    1. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: Sooner or later...

      "...someone with a big enough axe..."

      The market; and it seems like it might have started swinging.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The best answer would be fines to be stated only as fractions of global turnover. It's one thing to set the upper limit on that basis but quite another to have the regulator actually think in those terms rather than currency units. And make the lower limit a "material" fraction.

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Norway (IIRC) already does this for Personal fines, and it works well (some occasionally truly stunning eg speeding fines). But I'm not sure about Corporate.

      1. fuzzie

        I'm sure there are ways to get some skin in the game. Instead of making it a percentage of the entire corporate's profits, make it a percentage of the board's income/shares. That should help focus their attention a bit and, at the same time, maybe cause a rethink of their insane pay packages. After all, they are ultimately responsible and have to account to the shareholders.

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          @fuzzie

          That is exactly where the fines should be levied, directly at those responsible for the actions of the company.

      2. Dave 15 Silver badge

        For a while we did

        Then the rich got upset sotheir lackies changed it back again. I wonder when the UK will be the Republic of the UK Queenie knights the liar blair then want Barker howls to be on the throne with the non entity Charles,still unanswered questions about Dianne

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
          Linux

          Re: UK Republic

          If "rich" was that important to them, the loudest voices screaming for a Republic would be the Queen's/Royal Family's.

          Under a Republic, they'd have the same power they have now (none), BUT as normal people they'd have to pay normal tax and national health contributions! And at the highest normal rates: 59%.

          At present, they pay 85%.

          Most of "their" take-home income is then spent on maintaining public property, staff, and events.

          Under a Republic, their money-in-the-pocket would jump from 15% to 41%. Their expenses would dramatically shrink, and their income would nearly triple.

        2. Someone Else Silver badge

          @Dave 15 -- Re: For a while we did

          Dave, you're channeling your inner amanfrommars1 again...

  7. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Hand in glove

    Government needs to appear as if they are trying to do something.

    Reality is that Facebook is too useful for propaganda purposes (Nudge etc.) since it is one of the main sources of information for average member of the public.

    It would be too inconvenient for the government to lose such a tool of manipulation of public opinion, so they have to strike a balance.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the fine will be offset by the order of "Get boosted now" ads or something similar.

  8. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Referring to the tiny sum in a summary issued today, the CMA said: "It is not anomalous, nor would it affect Meta materially."

    I do not speak for everyone, but when I get a fine, like traffic infringement or speeding, etc, I compare the amount of the fine against my monthly pay. Realizing how much this unwanted expense have taken a hold of my monthly budget, I then remind myself to "do not do it again". Lessons learnt, right?

    But when a multi-billion dollar company gets find a measly £1.5m ... The lessons they've learnt is no longer "do not do it again" but, rather, "do not get caught".

    If this is the reality, whereby government heavily penalize individuals whilst taking a "softly, softly, do not antagonize big business" attitude, what is the job of penalties? Revenue raising? Penalties against business is not "revenue raising" because the amount is so trivial to both sides.

    What is the role of a government "watchdog"? Is a "government watchdog" meant to side with the tax-paying individual or side with the tax-avoiding big business?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think you are right to compare this fine to a speeding ticket. However we have different conclusions. Where you think "therefore the fine should be much higher so that they really pay attention", I conclude "this represents how unimportant the infraction was".

      When I get a speeding ticket, I generally go "this is less than 0.5% of my monthly income, embarrassing and I'll try to avoid it, but not worth agonizing about".

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        When I get a speeding ticket, I generally go "this is less than 0.5% of my monthly income, embarrassing and I'll try to avoid it, but not worth agonizing about".

        Which, of course, is exactly the point. If you don't see the punishment as a punishment, then you don't learn the lesson and will likely do it again and again. As mentioned further up, at least in the UK, incur that "embarrassing" fine 4 times in a 3 year period, and you suddenly find you get banned[*] from driving for 12 months. This is why another poster above mentioned accumulation of fines and "scofflaw"

        * It's actually much worse than it sounds. You have your driving licence rescinded. You then have to do without a car for 12 months and than have to re-apply for a learners licence and take the driving test again before you can have a full licence. Not to mention the increased insurance premiums.

        1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

          at least in the UK, incur that "embarrassing" fine 4 times in a 3 year period

          I think I have opened up something like a hornet's nest here ...

          Ok, so how much is a fine is "a fine"?

          Any government regulator can impose a fine. The question is not just "how much" is the fine but, rather, "are you serious" about the fine being collected?

          I could never get any information about how much fines the Australian government hands over business against how much they have collected. I do, however, know that traffic infringement fines are not "adequately" collected. People have accumulated thousands of (Australian) dollars of fine but never pays them.

          However, ElReg has published several articles in the past about how much UK's ICO have collected compared to how much the ICO have handed out. The "ratio" do not add up.

          And America is in the same situation.

          the CFMEU in Australia is a large and spectacularly toxic + aggressive* union

          Oh this brings back memories of the Craig Thomson and the HSU saga. Fun times!

          1. Insert sadsack pun here Silver badge

            "I could never get any information about how much fines the Australian government hands over business against how much they have collected"

            I have no idea what you're on about. Are there words missing from that sentence?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              They're talking about the amount of fines imposed vs the amount of fines paid, i.e. the proportion of fines which were issued but not paid.

    2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      > But when a multi-billion dollar company

      Or any organisation large relative to its respective regulations.

      Example: the CFMEU in Australia is a large and spectacularly toxic + aggressive* union. It explicitly treats the waterfall of fines as a cost of doing business, including reimbursing all the personal fines levied personally on their officers etc.

      .

      * including physically

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "including reimbursing all the personal fines levied personally on their officers etc."

        I'd expect that to be something included in general salary or annual bonuses. I suspect even in Australia, it not the done thing to put a court fine down on your monthly business expenses claim form :-)

        I'm fairly sure that would be illegal in the UK.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Nope, it's just a straight-out prompt reimbursement. According to their public statements, anyway.

          Document-trail-wise, I'd imagine a copy of the Court judgement would suffice for their auditors' Validity checking. I really like the idea of it being just a standard line-item on the standard expenses form, though! :D

          But it's bloody hard to make illegal, since the unions own and sometimes impose day-to-day control over the Labor party, and have many fellow travellers throughout the public service. Makes the UK's Labour party's union ties look like wet threads compared to a hooked steel net and a hammer. Eg, financially they're laughing since they forced compulsory superannuation (long story, and it originally wasn't their idea) then forced the contributions for whole sectors compulsorily into union-created super funds, which pay them fees, give them junkets, then hand them the remaining profits. Eg, they forced a law change so that if a big union takes over a small union, it is actually _illegal_ for that small union to attempt to leave. Eg etc etc

      2. fuzzie

        Ubet has the same habit in South Africa and probably elsewhere. If their drivers are fined for operating without a proper public drivers licence or have their cars impounded for being suitably licensed, Uber pays all the fines and release monies. It means eery Tom, Dick, and Harriet who wants to make a quick buck shuttling people around, can do so with impunity.

        It's just part of the cost of flooding the local market, suffocating the local taxi industry (though they've needed a wake-up call or a while) and slowing the expansion of proper public transport options

      3. teknopaul Silver badge

        "reimbursing all the personal fines levied personally on their officers"

        Should be considered organised crime, those reimbursing fines should be punished according to existing organized crime rules.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          I agree, but see my reply to John Brown (no body) above.

    3. Someone Else Silver badge

      @sanmigueelbeer --

      But when a multi-billion dollar company gets find a measly £1.5m ... The lessons they've learnt is no longer "do not do it again" but, rather, "do not get caught".

      I think it's more like, "Again?!? Fuck this...call Madge in petty cash and get this settled, OK?"

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eleventy million billion

    Or lock up some local senior managers.

    Or both.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It is difficult to see what a non-material fine is supposed to achieve."

    There are several possibilities, but we can all agree that it is not intended to achieve a change in corporate behaviour. What, then? It appears that the European model of public finance, which the UK seems intent on keeping despite leaving the EU, is to repeatedly fine foreign corporations for any and all misbehaviour, however small, as well as for simply doing business (in this case it may be called fines or a tax, but as the tax has nothing to do with profits and is not levied against all businesses but only a small subset of foreign-owned firms, it's basically penal confiscation without requiring the hassle of defining the offense or the courage to simply forbid it). They are politically unpopular despite the people's near-universal choice to use their services, which makes them an easy target. At the same time, this also affords officials an opportunity to pander. They're "doing something" about those dastardly foreign corporations! Look at them! Give them votes! Naturally, this model of financing allows them to grow their government empires without unpopular tax increases, which also guarantees them a strong supply of votes from the ever-growing ranks of bureaucrats whose livelihoods depend upon that growth.

    This is similar to the US's tobacco Master Settlement: it puts the government in a position where both the public finances and the individual officials benefit from what was supposed to be corporate wrongdoing, in effect making them silent partners in the offending corporations. The government's proper functions are managing public goods, preventing violent and property crimes, and forbidding externalities, and it is proper that the citizens pay for those functions through blind, universal taxation. It is not to compete with or displace private industry in the provision of goods and services, pick winners, and redistribute wealth, nor is it to partner with "lawbreaking" foreign corporations to finance the growth of bureaucracy and buy votes. If you want government services, pay for them yourselves. If you want to punish lawbreaking, hang the lawbreakers, lock them up, or expel them from the country.

    Yes, this is a small fine for a small offense. It isn't going to finance any material fraction of government activity, any more than it's going to encourage Facebook to comply with the law. But it's part of a consistent and growing pattern. Be afraid, be very afraid.

    1. quiet-reader

      "The government's proper functions are [some suggestions]"

      " It is not to[ some other suggested forbidden activities]"

      Thanks for this useful list expressing what you think governments should and shouldn't do. You know other people and other countries have different ideas, right?

      "Be afraid, be very afraid."

      I'm not.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Good heavens, man! Did you even read what you just wrote? I kind of get the whole "small government and big capital" rhetoric, even if I vehemently disagree with your premise, but this sentence is just plain baffling: "...If you want government services, pay for them yourselves." What is that even supposed to mean?!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I suppose that means: stop paying taxes for 'government' services, go to jail instead, at which point this government service comes free?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        What is difficult about this concept? We are agreed (whether you accept it or not) that there are valuable and worthwhile services government is expected to provide for the citizens it serves. The citizens should pay taxes -- that's where you are obligated at regular intervals to give some amount of cash to the government's treasurer for public use -- to fund those services. The practice of deciding that a specific corporation, type of business, or business model is unloved and an easy political target and therefore a good source of funds is not healthy for the government or the citizens it serves. It would be better to fund the government through universal individual taxation and have that government instead enforce a ban on the unloved activities. It costs more, but long experience has shown that all entities are ultimately controlled by the sources of their funds. There's even a name for this specific instance of the phenomenon in economic theory: bureaucratic capture. This kind of targeted confiscation regime puts bureaucratic capture on a heavy steroid regimen and feeds it 8 huge meals a day.

        This is not "small government and big capital" rhetoric at all; it's in fact a warning against allowing the very "big capital" you despise to end up in complete control of the government that is supposed to be serving you the citizen -- an outcome that, by the way, I strongly oppose also. If you think I want Facebook getting anywhere near groups of large men with guns who think their job is to order me about, you're off your nut. A universal rule in human life is that there is no such thing as a free lunch. If you want to take it further, remember why people despise Facebook so much in the first place: you're not the customer because you're not paying for it, which means you're the product. See where this goes? You want something that's good for you, pay for it yourself. As for how much of that you want, that's your business, but don't demand huge government with tiny taxes and figure on making up the difference by taking more from whomever seems least popular.

        Unsure how to make this clearer, so apologies if I'm still not getting through.

        1. Insert sadsack pun here Silver badge

          "there are valuable and worthwhile services government is expected to provide for the citizens it serves..."

          The state also provides services to private companies (for example, by restraining angry mobs from burning down their offices and server centres in response to their shitty behavior). Often those private companies are not owned by citizens of the states in which they operate. Private companies should pay their share of taxes.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Original AC here, author of the "Good heavens" comment above.

          I believe we had our wires crossed. I am a fan of higher taxes for the rich or to be more precise, fairer taxes. To quote a famous example, I agree with Warren Buffet that he should't have to quote: "pay less taxes than my Secretary does" (search for Warren Buffets Secretary).

          I partially agree with the sentiment that if you want something, you should pay for it yourself, but I think that's ignoring the fact, that there are no viable alternatives. There is no paid and privacy optimized version of Facebook and if there were, it would probably flop now that we've gotten everyone used to not paying for this service. Even many paywalled websites still use all manner of analytics and third party websites specialized on hoovering up your personal data.

          I believe in universal healthcare as a basic right and fairer taxation expressed as a percentage of income OR as a percentage of wealth - to discourage hoarding and encourage investing. If the top 1% had the same tax rate on their wealth/income as the rest of us do, society would be a better place and government could provide better services for all.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    only 0.0004%?

    should have been 40% of worldwide profits and the number increased by 5% for every delay suit that they file.

    The world will be a far, far better place when FB goes TITSUP for good...

    Posting AC as I have a few close family members who are still hanging on to FB. The rest kissed it bye-bye several years ago.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is difficult to see what a non-material fine is supposed to achieve

    It's supposed to achieve a proof of their existence and please, please, gov, aka tax-payers, we NEED your money to keep achieving. That proof.

  13. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Next time the fine shouldn't be a monetary one, but instead instruct all UK ISPs to block access to Facebook ad serving domains and IPs for a period of 24 hours, so people will still be able to use the FB website and app, but none of the ads will show.

    Im sure a few rounds of that will get Zuckerbergs attention.

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