When false Google reviews cause unpleasant disruption to business? Delete false Google reviews – What to do?
Negative reviews on Google, the search engine market leader, can severely disrupt the business operations of a merchant or other enterprise and cause financial losses. Not only are potential customers or suppliers deterred, but there may also be adverse reactions from existing customers or suppliers. How can these ratings be removed quickly and safely? – By Valentin Schulte, economist & Stud. Iur at the law firm Dr. Thomas Schulte, Berlin.
Factual situation – deleting negative reviews
It often happens that clients contact the law firm Dr. Thomas Schulte to get legal advice about a Google review and to get this review deleted. This circumstance and this accumulation probably results mainly from the fact that only a very low threshold has to be exceeded when submitting a negative review. G-mail accounts are widespread and easy to create. There is also no need to leave anonymity in the process. This is countered by serious disadvantages on the part of the entrepreneur.
Legal situation – deletion of negative reviews
How are Google reviews to be viewed legally and are those affected possibly entitled to (deletion) claims? The claim is the core of German civil law and legally defined in § 194 of the German Civil Code (BGB). Section 194 I of the German Civil Code states: „The right to demand that another person do something or refrain from doing something (claim) is subject to the statute of limitations. If an affected party is entitled to a deletion claim, it can now demand the deletion of the Google rating in question. For this purpose, a basis for the claim and an opposing party must be identified. The basis for a claim can arise, among other things, from a contract or from the law. For example, in the case of a Google review, there may be a claim for deletion against Google based on a contract, even though the review was written by another Google user. The Google guidelines, which must be confirmed by the user similar to GTC and to which Google itself has committed itself, can be seen as a contract (cf. OLG Munich – judgment of 07.01.2020 – 18 U 1491/19). Other bases for claims arise from the law and can be asserted against the author and/or against Google.
Claim for deletion from the Google guidelines
The Google guidelines contain a catalog of inadmissible content that can justify a claim for deletion. The following criteria, among others, are listed here:
- Spam and fake content
- Off-topic content
- Restricted permissible content (here, in particular, advertising in the form of photos and links are prohibited; photos of menus, for example, are permitted)
- Illegal content (here explicitly: terrorist content, sexually explicit content, offensive content, dangerous or derogatory content, and identity theft)
- Conflicts of interest (reviews of your own company or negative reviews of competitors)
Violations of the guidelines can be reported to Google and corresponding reviews can be brought to deletion. In case of doubt, the burden of proof and presentation is to be borne by the applicant.
Claim for deletion by law
Even Google reviews are first covered by the constitutional fundamental right of freedom of expression (Article 5 of the Basic Law) and can therefore only be restricted under certain conditions. This is the case, for example, in the case of a lie or an insult. General laws can also restrict this fundamental right if they are constitutional. Thus, some legal claims for deletion have emerged that are relevant here. In particular, there are deletion claims under §§ 823, 824, 1004 of the German Civil Code (BGB), but Article 17 of the General Data Protection Regulation in conjunction with § 35 of the Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG) can also give rise to a claim. If a competitor writes a bad Google review in order to harm another entrepreneur, Section 5a VI of the Unfair Competition Act (UWG) may also be relevant.
In summary, it should be noted that victims of a bad Google review do not have to accept this situation. There are realistic possibilities to take action against this and to have the reviews in question deleted.
Valentin Markus Schulte
Economist, Stud. Iur
Law Office Dr. Thomas Schulte
Maltese Street 170
Phone: +49 30 221922020
The law firm Rechtsanwalt Dr. Schulte has been successfully active in civil law since 1995, focusing on Internet, reputation and competition law. It represents the interests of individual investors nationwide. Supplementing sender data with the law office location find you in the imprint on the Internet side www.dr-schulte.de.