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Supreme Court judgment: Negative Google rating

Line of five stars hand drawn on a blackboard

“Realtor insults, threatens and denounces tenants when handing over the apartment” – OGH condemns evaluators to remove and omit – and rejects claims for damages by the realtor. (OGH judgment of 10.09.2020, 6Ob135 / 20a)

There was only one out of five stars in 2019 for a real estate brokerage company in Salzburg – see the following “Experience report“: Very condescending way of dealing with customers / tenants. Realtor insults, threatens and denounces tenants when handing over the apartment – an absolutely unprofessional appearance. Fortunately, there are other real estate agents who treat people with respect. The complaint was not Google but a young Salzburg resident who wanted to acknowledge the – according to his mother’s description, inappropriate – treatment of his parents when returning a rented apartment (he himself was not present at the handover). The one-star rating lowered the average rating of the defendant brokerage company from 3.8 stars to 3.2 stars.

Untrue accusations make negative reviews illegal

The Salzburg resident did not provide any evidence for his allegations, but argued that his assessment was a permissible value judgment within the framework of the fundamental right to freedom of expression. The Supreme Court shared a clear rejection: the untrue accusation of having insulted, threatened and denounced someone can just as little be accepted in company reviews on platforms as the untrue accusation of other criminal acts. The Supreme Court therefore confirmed the judgment of the appellate court, with which the defendant Salzburg to remove the assessment and to refrain from any other similar disparaging remarks about the broker

Compensation for damages only if there is evidence of specific financial damage

In the final instance, the Supreme Court rejected the brokerage company’s claim for damages (it wanted 2,000 euros and argued primarily with depreciation of the company): Anyone who claims damages for encroaching on personal rights according to Section 1330 ABGB must substantiate how the value of their company is reflected in the statements on the Internet platform has reduced by the amount of the coveted amount of money and at least exemplifies whether or which orders he has lost due to the evaluation, according to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, this is not very realistic: the entrepreneur is naturally not aware of business deals that are lost due to poor ratings.

Elimination claim even with a one-star rating without a comment?

The defendant Salzburger had created the prerequisites for the proceedings himself: unlike so often with Google reviews, he did not use a pseudonym or fake profile but “vouched” for the damning criticism with his full name – and was thus investigable for the plaintiff. In practice, the reviewers often remain anonymous – then you have to contact the review platform, for example Google, directly.

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