A 1-star rating without text may also be inadmissible if there was contact but this was not a recognizable basis for the rating. This was the decision of the Cologne Higher Regional Court in a legal dispute between two competitors.
The background to the legal dispute was an event organized by an IT company in which a senior sales employee had participated. Four employees from another IT company were listed as attending the event. Only one employee had actually participated. Upon a corresponding request for a declaration of stored data, the possibility of inspection by the organizer was granted. A short time later, the company in question discovered that a Google rating had been published with one out of five stars. The author was the senior staff member of the organizer. The rating was later deleted.
The company concerned demanded that the author cease and desist, provide information and indemnify it against pre-court legal costs. The action was initially unsuccessful at first instance.
1-star rating inadmissible
In a partial judgment dated December 23, 2022 – 6 U 83/22, the Cologne Higher Regional Court upheld the claims of the company concerned.
The author had placed himself in a concrete competitive relationship with the company concerned through the Google rating.
Since the evaluation was in connection with a professional and also business activity, it did not serve the sole purpose of private expression of opinion. It was thus also a business act.
A rating by awarding one of five stars in an Internet service is a disparaging value judgment. The statement was untrue in its factual core and sweepingly disparaging. Star ratings of business services on Google profiles would not be understood by the target audience as mere expressions of opinion, but as a personal assessment of a service actually used. In this respect, such evaluations contain a factual core to which the subjective evaluation is linked. A general disparagement which, in the absence of information about concrete circumstances to which the disparaging statement relates, does not allow this factual reference to be identified, is exhausted in the disparagement and is therefore inadmissible entrepreneurial defamatory criticism.
The professional contact underlying the facts was not a recognizable basis for the evaluation, since in this case it was not the services of the evaluated party that were evaluated, but circumstances that had nothing to do with the products of the evaluated party.
A contact of any kind is therefore not sufficient for a 1-star rating in Internet portals. Rather, it is necessary that a specific service has been used and subsequently evaluated. Otherwise, such an assessment constitutes inadmissible defamatory criticism, regardless of whether a concrete competitive relationship exists. This view has already been taken by the courts several times in the past and has now also been confirmed by the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court and the Stuttgart Higher Regional Court.Artikel als PDF speichern