• France edition
 
Blogger fined €1,500 for harsh restaurant review
A French blogger was hit with a hefty fine for an 'insulting' restaurant review. Photo: Screengrab/Google

Blogger fined €1,500 for harsh restaurant review

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

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Sarkozy’s big return: Carla Bruni 'says non!'
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy does not want her husband to return to politics, according to reports. Photo: AFP

Sarkozy’s big return: Carla Bruni 'says non!'

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy faces a few obstacles before he can fulfill his dream of becoming head of state once again - not least his numerous legal tangles. But it appears the biggest hurdle of all could be his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. READ  

Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule
Brits may soon get the right vote in the UK for the rest of their lives. Photo: Hagwall/Flickr

Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule

The Conservative party in the UK has made a bid to woo expat voters by pledging to end the controversial “15-year rule” that prevents millions of Brits abroad from being able to vote. READ  

Most French admit they 'don't know about wine'
Most French people know nothing about wine, a new survey has revealed. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Most French admit they 'don't know about wine'

It may be the country’s most famous product but more than two thirds of French people admit they know nothing about wine, according to a new poll. READ  

France bans Muslim worker from nuclear sites
Tricastin nuclear plant in France, one of the many sites a Muslim engineer has been barred from over his jihadist links. Photo: Shutterstock

France bans Muslim worker from nuclear sites

A Muslim engineer has been barred from entering France's nuclear sites due to his links with jihadist networks, after a court upheld the ban this week. His lawyer claims the man is a victim of Islamophobia. READ  

Top Gear to launch new French version of show
Hit British car series 'Top Gear' is coming to France. Photo: Ana Poenariu/AFP

Top Gear to launch new French version of show

France is going to get its own version of legendary British auto series Top Gear with the show set to hit the TV screens by next year. READ  

Ukraine crisis
Mistral deal: Pressure on France as tensions rise
France may be forced to take another another look at its warship deal with Russia. Photo: Sergei Supinsky/AFP

Mistral deal: Pressure on France as tensions rise

Increased tension in the Ukraine has only served to heighten the pressure on France, which so far has stubbornly refused to pull-out of its €1.2 billion deal to sell two Mistral warships to Russia. But will Paris be forced to re-consider? READ  

Paris building blast: Eighth body found
Firefighters pull a body from the rubble after an explosion brought down an apartment block near Paris on Sunday. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

Paris building blast: Eighth body found

French rescue workers pulled an eighth body out of the rubble of a four-storey building near Paris on Monday. The apartment block collapsed on Sunday after an explosion. Rescuers don't believe anyone else is still missing. READ  

Opinion - School reform
'New five-day week is vital for French pupils'
French primary school pupils will attend school five days a week from now on, despite opposition from parents. Photo: Shutterstock

'New five-day week is vital for French pupils'

The head of a major parents' group in France tells The Local why the new five-day school week will bring French schools into the 21st century. READ  

Ligue 1
Blow for French league as Falcao departs
Radamel Falcao has left French Ligue 1 side to join Manchester United. Photo: AFP

Blow for French league as Falcao departs

The French league was dealt a blow on Monday when one of its star names, Monaco's Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, left to join Manchester United. The move shows clubs in France's Ligue 1, with the exception of PSG, cannot compete with Europe's big teams. READ  

Photo of French pupils draws 'racist' backlash
An Education Ministry photo has prompted an online controversy in France, because only one kid is white. Photo: Sophie Brändström/Education Ministry

Photo of French pupils draws 'racist' backlash

The French government has firmly rebuked scores of 'racist' comments left on an education ministry Facebook post which shows a back-to-school scene with mostly non-white children. The image has elicited a furious online debate. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for keeping your French in-laws happy
National
Unemployment: How does France compare to Europe?
International
Are all the talented professionals really leaving France?
National
La France profonde: Is it a rural idyll or a backwater hell?
Travel
Check out the four new attractions coming to Paris this autumn
Gallery
The French words you can't translate literally
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
International
VIDEO: Watch the top five street scams to avoid in Paris
Politics
Take a look at the bulging to-do list that awaits France's new government
Politics
Six questions for France after Hollande ousts rebels
International
Choosing schools in France: Do you go international or French?
Gallery
From kissing to bad-mouthing: Ten ways expats in France drive you mad
Culture
Ten things you need to know about the Liberation of Paris:
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
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