Deleting reviews - tips from a lawyer
Reviews are an important key to success in many industries - or they jeopardize sales. But what about deleting reviews? We explain whether and how you can have inadmissible reviews deleted.
- Receiving negative reviews - how do I react?
- Which reviews can I have deleted?
- Who do I have to take action against?
- What claims are possible?
1. Receiving negative reviews - how do I react?
Which steps are necessary in detail depends very much on the individual case. As a rule, however, you should observe the following:
- Secure evidence. Take a screenshot of the rating, for example, which also shows the date of the recording. In this way, also record the profile of the reviewer. If you suspect a specific person, create a memory log in which you write down your memories of the business contact in detail.
- Do not take legal action immediately! As a rule, you should first work out of court to have the review deleted (usually with the portal operator). Among other things, you should set a deadline of at least a few days in your request for the review to be deleted. We will take these steps for you and put our experience to work for you.
- Only if the review is not removed even after your out-of-court efforts should you consider taking legal action. We will advise you whether and when this makes sense.
2. Which reviews can I have deleted?
Deletion is not so easy to enforce.
Reviews are regularly an expression of freedom of opinion. The publication of opinions on a portal serves the public interest in information. It therefore enjoys special protection under fundamental rights. It can therefore be complicated and difficult to have a review deleted.
This is mainly due to the fact that the boundaries between permissible and impermissible statements are fluid. We will show you in a moment which reviews you can generally have deleted. As indicated, however, it depends very much on the individual case.
The borderline cases are problematic. Assessing these is our specialty. You can therefore rely on our legal advice.
False statement of fact
Freedom of expression does protect the expression of an opinion. However, it must be distinguished from untrue statements of fact, which are not subject to this protection. However, you are often confronted with such statements in reviews.
An opinion is a value judgment. It is characterized by elements of opinion and support.
Example: "The food doesn't taste good."
How someone likes the food is an opinion. Tastes are different. The quality of a dish can be assessed. However, the taste of the individual is always decisive.
The above assessment and comparable value judgments can therefore not be challenged. However, something different applies in the case of defamatory criticism (see below).
However, you can have factual claims deleted if they are not true. Unlike value judgments, facts can be confirmed as true or refuted as false by means of proof.
Example: "We had to wait over an hour for our food."
This statement is objectively true or false.
However, statements of fact can also be subject to freedom of expression if they are linked to an evaluation or form the basis of an assessment. The decisive factor, however, is whether they are true or untrue.
Example: "The kitchen uses cheap products. The food therefore did not taste good".
The assertion that the kitchen uses cheap products is a factual assertion. Whether cheap products were actually used can be objectively verified.
If the claim proves to be untrue, it is no longer protected by freedom of expression.
As an exception, you can also take action against pure value judgments. In this case, the boundary to defamatory criticism is decisive. It is exceeded if the evaluation has the sole aim of defaming and disparaging you. Personal insults in particular are an indication of this.
The focus is then clearly no longer on a factual discussion.
Example: "The dishes on offer are shat into the plate like a portion of pinscher excrement and make you want to vomit!"
It is also important here whether the criticism can be based in any way on actual events.
Example: If the reviewer has only ordered a cappuccino and then publishes a foul-mouthed review of the restaurant as a whole, the limit of abusive criticism is all the more likely to be reached.
Case law sets high hurdles for defamatory criticism. Freedom of expression is a very strong fundamental right. Taking action against it requires a sound argument.
Rating with stars only
Customers often give a "star rating" without justifying it. Such ratings may be inadmissible - especially if the person giving the rating has never actually been your customer. We take care of that.
Violation of the portal's guidelines
Some large portals have their own guidelines that regulate the content of reviews. In some cases, these go further than the legal limits mentioned above. It may therefore be worth taking a look at these guidelines as well.
3. Who do I have to take action against?
Once you have identified a questionable assessment, the next step is to decide who to contact. There are usually several parties involved. There are three different parties:
- The reviewer
- The portal operator
- You, the reviewer
There is also the general public's interest in information.
Against the reviewer
The obvious thing to do is to make a direct claim against the reviewer as the author of the review. However, this person will often hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. It is difficult to identify them.
At this point, a request for information from the portal operator is conceivable. The Federal Court of Justice has rejected such a claim for information on the part of the reviewer, citing the provisions of the German Telemedia Act (TMG).
The anonymity of the reviewer is in the nature of the Internet. Something else can only apply if the rated user has consented to their data being passed on.
Action against the reviewer is therefore only likely to be successful in certain cases. This is possible, for example, if you can clearly identify the author of the review based on its content.
Against the portal
It often makes more sense to take legal action against the portal operator itself. You will quickly be confronted with corporations such as Google/Alphabet or other operators whose size alone can be intimidating. Examples include the following:
- Trusted Shops
These companies are usually based abroad. Enforcing the law without the help of a lawyer is therefore all the more difficult.
We specialize in such cases and regularly enforce our clients' rights against Google and the like.
If we take action against the portal operator, it is important to proceed precisely. Deletion can only be enforced if the review is also inadmissible. The portals are usually very experienced in these matters. Considerable legal expertise is required to be successful.
4. Which claims can be considered?
The aim of the claim is usually the deletion of the review. We therefore assert claims for removal and injunctive relief against the portal. Other claims may also be considered:
- If you can identify the reviewer, we will also take action against them. For example, a declaration to cease and desist with a penalty clause may be considered.
- In some review portals, a profile can be created for your company against your will. We will take action against this if you do not wish to appear on the portal.
- In special cases, it is also worth taking a look at competition law. Does the operator of the review portal offer a service himself? He may be classified as your competitor. The bad reviews can promote your own competition, but harm your competition. Action under fair trading law is then conceivable. The same applies if a competitor posts unlawful reviews about you. We will also be happy to advise you on this!
- We will check for you whether claims for damages exist. However, these are rarely successful against the portal. However, if the reviewer is known, you may be able to claim compensation from them.
- Serious insults can be punished under criminal law. We can advise you on whether criminal proceedings are appropriate.
5. Deleting reviews: Conclusion
Reviews cannot generally be deleted if you do not like them.
However, false factual claims and defamatory criticism in particular are inadmissible. You can have these deleted.
As a rule, you can only take action against the operator. We will do this for you.
In most cases, the primary aim is to have the post deleted. However, you may also have other rights, e.g. to cease and desist in the future or compensation for damages.
Have you received unauthorized reviews? Would you like to have them deleted?Make an appointment now!
Picture credits: Gerd Altmann | Pixabay