Germany: operator of a hotel review website not liable for insulting postings

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

The plaintiff, a hotel company, sued the operator of a hotel review website over a posting which alledged that in the plaintiff's hotel the guests got "only bed bugs for the EUR 37,50 paid per night". The defendant's website offers the opportunity to post hotel reviews and rate hotels. A special software is scanning the postings for potential insult or defamation. Postings which are not blocked by this software get published automatically. Upon plaintiff's complaint, the defendant immediately removed the posting but refused to sign a cease and desist declaration.

The German Supreme Court (BGH) held that the posting cannot be regarded as a statement of the defendant himself  who would therefore - as a service provider - only be liable if he had failed to comply with a due care obligation to review the posting. The intensity of such obligation would depend on the circumstances and had to be reasonable. The BGH concluded that the defendant in the particular case had not failed to comply with his obligations: one the one hand it would be unreasonable to require an advance check of each posting and on the other hand the defendant had removed the insulting posting immediately as soon as he had become aware of  it. The claim was therefore dismissed.

Source: BGH press release Nr. 41/2015 of March 19, 2015

Case details: BGH judgement  I ZR 94/13 - "Hotelbewertungsportal" of March 19. 2015

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