In a recent decision, the Federal Court of Justice strengthened the rights of hotels when dealing with negative reviews on the Internet. If a hotel declares that the authors were not guests, a rating portal is obliged to investigate this allegation and check the ratings. If the operator does not do this, according to the Karlsruhe decision, the hotel is entitled to have the review in question deleted.
First, the specialist portal “Legal Tribune Online” reported on the verdict , which a law firm involved had put on the Internet. A BGH spokesman confirmed the authenticity on Friday.
Published without full name
A holiday and leisure park on the Baltic Sea with around 4000 beds that had received several bad ratings on a large portal had complained. The users had only given a first or nickname and initials once. The park had asked the portal to remove the ratings – the information in the booking system could not be used to clearly prove that the people had actually been guests in the period in question. The portal had refused and pointed out that the reviewers had written quite detailed reviews, some with photos.
The district court in Cologne dismissed the action brought by the holiday park in the first instance. The judges held that the reviews attacked by the amusement park were sufficiently specific, which speaks for their authenticity. It was said that one comment contained the specific name of an apartment complex and another that there were stains on the upholstery in a particular room.
When in doubt for the hotel
The Cologne Higher Regional Court, on the other hand, was of the opinion that the portal should have contacted the authors anyway to clarify whether they had really been there on vacation. It must also be possible to delete a fake review that is plausible in terms of content. It is unlikely, but conceivable that a competitor wrote the deceptively real-looking negative reviews. The photos did not allow any conclusions as to who took them.
The BGH has now confirmed this judgment. A hotel only has to provide a more detailed justification as to why an author should not have been a guest if its identity “is readily apparent from the assessment,” write the top civil judges. Information that only spoke for contact with guests was not sufficient. Because the hotel »cannot check them regularly«.