• France's news in English
 

Blogger fined €1,500 for harsh restaurant review

Published: 11 Jul 2014 15:48 GMT+02:00

The French have always taken their food very seriously, but after a judge ordered a blogger to pay damages to a restaurant owner for an insulting review, they seem to have reached a new level.

An August 2013 post from a blogger who goes by the name L’Irrégulière chronicled an unhappy visit to a pizzeria called ll Giardino in the western French beach town of Cap Ferret.

The blogger starts by mocking the server calling her “a harpy (bad tempered woman) in a fluorescent vest” who yelled at her for sitting at a table without permission.

She then complains about a delay in getting pre-meal drinks. Finally she relates how she got into a row with the owner whom the blogger described as a woman who “takes herself for a diva.”

And the cherry on the top was the review's title: “The place to avoid in Cap Ferret: Il Giardino”

It was that headline, which the judge at a court in Bordeaux decided on July 2nd, qualified as a personal attack rather than a common drubbing. The judge ruled the review itself was covered by freedom of speech protections, but the title was “denigration” (defamation) or the public smearing of one or one’s business’s good name, French magazine l’Express reported.

It’s a decision that made the ‘diva’ restaurant owner happy. She had argued that the title, which at one time popped up in fourth position on a Google search of the restaurant’s name, had been passed around among locals and tourists to the detriment of her business.

SEE ALSO: 'Give me a grumpy Parisian waiter anyday'

“Customers showed us the blog and told us they had hesitated before coming in because of the review. It’s the neighboring businesses that convinced them to come nonetheless,” the unnamed owner told French newspaper Sud Ouest. “We’ve been here 15 years, it hurts to get insulted.”

The judge figured that the insult was worth €1,500 in damages and another €1,000 for the blogger's court costs.

For her part the reviewer said “the proceedings were vicious. The restaurant didn’t even try to contact me.”

She has since taken the review down, even though the court had only asked her to change the title. However, according to a legal expert the blogger could have done much more to win the case, such as hire a lawyer to represent her in court.

“It’s a €2,500 mistake,” a blogger and lawyer who goes by the name of Maître Eolas told L’Express. “There are arguments against this judgment and any lawyer could have found a Court of Cassation ruling that flagrantly contradicts this decision.”

"She was naive to believe that you can get by in the legal system just with good intentions and common sense.”

SEE ALSO: Paris: 'Worst restaurants' named and shamed

In recent months France has wrangled over the question of how much freedom should be given to online scribes.

Under pressure from Jewish groups the government ordered Twitter to hand over the identities of users who posted anti-Semitic or homophobic comment online.

And in July last year the national association on standardization AFNOR published a plan that set some voluntary standards for companies that were aimed at ensuring more authentic user reviews.

As for this case, it might sound shocking to advocates of internet freedom but Maître Eolas said the decision cannot be used to set a legal precedent because the court that made the ruling doesn’t have that power. Her only advice to bloggers was this.

“Is there a risk that you will get sued? Yes. The only way to avoid that risk is to not publish anything on a blog or on social media!”

Don't miss stories about France, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Ça va ma jolie?': Sexism rife in French offices
"Elle est pire qu'un homme" just one of the sexist terms women in France are victims of. Photo: sexism photoShutterstock

'Ça va ma jolie?': Sexism rife in French offices

A French minister says everyday sexism, such as "calling women by their first names", is "unacceptable" after being handed a report detailing how 80 percent of women working in France are victims of chauvinism. READ  

How France could fight 'social apartheid' in 2015
Police out in force in the French suburb of Corbeil-Essonnes during the riots of 2005. Photo: AFP

How France could fight 'social apartheid' in 2015

French PM Manuel Valls caused a storm in the aftermath of the January terror attacks saying France must face the reality of "social and ethnic apartheid". One MP has done just that and listed 24 measures for how France could tackle the problem of its suburban ghettos. READ  

English words the French simply can't say
A confused squirrel, no doubt trying to pronounce his own name. Photo: Tambako The Jaguar/Flickr

English words the French simply can't say

English-learners might get off lightly when it comes to grammar but pronunciation problems can leave them in a proper pickle. Here are the toughest of all words for French people to get their lips around. READ  

Le Pen red faced after backing 'neo-fascist rally'
Photo: Screengrab YouTube/Matteo Salvini

Le Pen red faced after backing 'neo-fascist rally'

Marine Le Pen, always so careful not to associate with the wrong kind of folk, had some explaining to do on Friday after sending a video message to a rally where neo-fascists and anti-Islam campaigners from Pegida were present. READ  

Ex-call girl turns 'charity pimp' for French disabled
Marcel Nuss, who suffers from muscular dystrophy and his wife Jill, who will launch a course for sexual assistants. Photo: Jill Nuss

Ex-call girl turns 'charity pimp' for French disabled

With a growing number of disabled people keen to pay for sexual services, one French former prostitute has launched a course for sex workers who are willing to help but don't know how. She tells The Local why she shouldn't be mistaken for a pimp. READ  

Video: Paris prankster rides Vélib on Metro rails
The cyclist on the Metro tracks. Photo: YouTube (screenshot)

Video: Paris prankster rides Vélib on Metro rails

A young Parisian prankster has landed in hot water for taking one of the capital's Vélib bicycles and riding it on the Metro tracks. READ  

Facebook vs France
Facebook vagina row will be settled in France
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook vagina row will be settled in France

A Paris court passed a landmark ruling on Thursday after deciding it has jurisdiction to judge a case against US social networking site Facebook which blocked the account of a French teacher who posted an image of a vagina. READ  

Annecy Killings
Alps Murders: Mystery biker ruled out of killings
A mystery biker has been ruled out of any involvement in the quadruple murder. Photo: French police

Alps Murders: Mystery biker ruled out of killings

French police investigating the brutal murder of a British-Iraqi family in the French Alps have suffered another setback in the quest to find the killer. After finally managing to identify a mystery biker police have ruled him out of any involvement in the quadruple murder. READ  

Norway 'won't arrest' Paris bombing suspect
The scene after the bombing at the Chez Jo Godenberg restaurant in 1982 that left six people dead. Photo: AFP

Norway 'won't arrest' Paris bombing suspect

Norway is unlikely to extradite a citizen suspected of links to a 1982 attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris after France issued an arrest warrant for him, an official said Thursday. READ  

Burgers rival baguettes for French taste buds
French are falling in love with burgers, but are still faithful to their beloved ham baguette. Photo: Julian Menichini/Flickr

Burgers rival baguettes for French taste buds

The latest evidence of a shift in French culinary tastes came in a new report on Thursday which shows the French are chomping nearly as many burgers as their cherished ham baguette. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
International Women's Day: A portrait of women in France
VIDEO: Paris prankster rides Vélib on Metro rails
Culture
What's on: London's arts scene comes to Paris
National
Are these racist cakes or artistic pastries?
National
France is gearing up for a car-free day this year
Culture
Massive new French TV show 'Versailles' will be in English
National
France to remain on high terror alert 'for months
National
Study finds Frenchmen top the tables when it comes to 'manhood'
Culture
Marine Le Pen says yes to having a drink with Madonna
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in France
National
'No one would ever say you can slap your wife, so why children?'
Sponsored Article
Free spirit or tourist: what sort of expat are you?
Society
Latest job vacancies in France: Porn stars - 'Beginners welcome'
National
From planes to 1,000 cows - France's most controversial building projects
National
Time to move home? Pyrenees hamlet cut off after massive mudslide
National
Over 200 skeletons found in mass grave under Paris supermarket
Culture
Madonna has compared France and Europe to Nazi Germany
Culture
Are you also unimpressed by your French boss?
National
UK councillor blasted for 250km French commute
National
Say it with Nutella: Except the words 'lesbian', 'Muslim' and many more
Culture
Looking for something different to do in France in March? Here's 10 ideas
National
How can France enforce a no-drone zone over Paris?
Gallery
Here's how to be cool in Paris, according to Parisians
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best one to work in?
National
Why do so many women in France smoke throughout their pregnancy?
National
VIDEO: Banned but beautiful - Paris seen through the eyes of a drone
National
Would you want this Frenchman to squeal at YOUR wedding?
National
'We're back' - Charlie Hebdo magazine returns with a bite
Society
Handsome men on the Paris Metro are unknowingly going viral
Society
What are the little things that make France so different?
National
Should we be worried about drones being flown over Paris?
Travel
Another deadly avalanche in the French Alps
National
Text offences: Why French workers need to watch out in future
Gallery
Mont-Saint-Michel cut off as 'supertide' season opens in France
Gallery
Ten great moments for France throughout Oscar history
Culture
Anglo-French marriage problems begin long before anyone says 'Oui'
Travel
'The stars are aligned': Why now is the time to buy a house in France
National
IN PICTURES: 'Supertide' brings crowds to the French coast
Gallery
French property Face-off: Two luxury chalets in the French Alps
Travel
French coastal towns are braced for the 'tide of the century'
Politics
Socialist rebel MPs are angry but not ready to topple French government
Society
France to welcome another US fast food giant
Culture
Les Entrepreneurs: How to watch Paris theatre shows in English
Culture
So where are all these swinging sex clubs in Paris?
Sport
VIDEO: 'We're racist' - Chelsea fans push black man off Paris Metro
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se