• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Blogger fined €1,500 for harsh restaurant review

Joshua Melvin · 11 Jul 2014, 15:48

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!”

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
British expats take steps to secure their futures in France
Photo: Oli Bac/Flickr

Brits in France are not waiting around for their politicians to ease their worries, they are taking matters into their own hands to secure their future in the country, which is clouded in uncertainty.

How gay friendly is gay Paris?
The 2014 Gay Pride parade in Paris. Photo: AFP

The French capital is sometimes called "gay Paris", and to mark Saturday's Gay Pride March, we take a look at just how gay friendly the city is.

French drivers 'getting faster and paying less attention'
All photos: AFP

French motorists' bad habits are getting worse, a new study has found.

Common wine blunders you should really avoid in France
Photo: AFP

Don't be a plonk-er. Learn to negotiate the "winefield" in France.

Ten things you didn't know about gay Paris
Do you know where to find penis-shaped bakery goods in Paris? Photo: Legay Choc/Facebook

IN PICTURES
Britain and France mark 100 years since Battle of Somme
All photos: AFP

It was Britain's bloodiest day of battle ever.

What you need to know about France's ban on plastic bags
Photos: AFP

Plastic bags are banned in France as of today, July 1st, although it’s a little bit more complicated than that.

What does the Paris ban on old cars actually mean?
The ever-busy Rue La Fayette in Paris. All photos: AFP

The ban on old cars, trucks, and motorbikes begins today. Got questions? We've got answers.

The small changes to life in France from July 2016
Fancy some Sunday shopping in Paris? Photo: AFP

It's a new month - and that means changes in France at the shops, at home, and online (plus more). Here's how you'll be affected.

French tourism industry set to suffer over falling pound
Photo: AFP

Britons visit France each year in their millions, but for many it may become unaffordable.

Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Features
Gay Pride: Here are ten things you didn't know about 'gay Paris'
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Society
Paris Pride parade cut in half and the gay community is angry
Culture
What's on in France: Eleven great things to do in July
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Paris to honour Ireland's two sets of 'wonderful' fans
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Politics
When France 'ignored' the result of an EU referendum
New app aims to rid Paris pavements of dog poo
Society
No more plastic bags! See what changes in France from July 2016
National
Mixed reaction from the French as UK votes for Brexit
National
How Brexit could now scupper that dream move to France
Brexit limbo: What happens next for Brits in France?
Gallery
Ten reasons why you should think about becoming French
Analysis & Opinion
Brexit: Life for Brits in France 'will get more complicated'
Culture
20 English words that 'should be banished' from French
National
Best Briehaviour: A guide to French cheese etiquette
Features
And the best city in France for expats to live in is...?
Society
Forget bikes, Paris is set to roll out scooter rentals
National
'We fear for our safety': French police feel the strain
Lifestyle
Why Rennes (and not Paris) is the best city in France for expats to live
National
Why are the French losing appetite for baguettes?
Lifestyle
Naturism booms in France as young eager to ditch clothes
Lifestyle
Is working life better in London or Paris?
National
Dear Americans: Please come to Paris
National
It's official (kind of): French work fewest hours in EU
2,765
jobs available