• 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)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
QUIZ: Find out how French you've become
So how French do you think you are? Photo: Frenchman: Shutterstock

QUIZ: Find out how French you've become

It's impossible to be an expat in France without turning a little bit French. Take our quiz and find out where you land on the Frenchiness scale. READ  

French try to make surly shopkeepers kinder
Tired of bad customer service in France? Photo: Smiling worker: Shutterstock

French try to make surly shopkeepers kinder

Many Anglos have a dim view of customer service in France, but the French aren't happy either with how some shopkeepers treat them. Now a growing programme is labeling shopkeepers who you can expect to be friendly. READ  

Broadcasts cut as fire ravages French radio HQ
A massive fire cut broadcasting for many of France's public radio stations. Photo: France Bleu

Broadcasts cut as fire ravages French radio HQ

A massive fire ripped through the Paris building that houses studios for some of France's public radio stations, prompted broadcasts to be abruptly cut off. It's unclear what sparked the blaze. READ  

Metro and Train strike set for Tuesday in France
A train and metro strike is set for Tuesday in France. Photo: AFP

Metro and Train strike set for Tuesday in France

Commuters should brace themselves for travel chaos next week, with a train and Metro strike set for Tuesday, according to AFP. But it's not clear yet how big of an industrial action it's going to be. READ  

France tries to collect €10k from fatherless girl
The teenager was told last week that she must pay back €10,000 in just 15 days. Euros: Shutterstock

France tries to collect €10k from fatherless girl

A 13-year-old girl in western France has been told she must pay back the €10,000 that was given to her by the state after her sailor father was killed in an accident. READ  

National Front pulls in 'record membership'
The National Front party has a total of 83,000 members – the highest number in the history of the party. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

National Front pulls in 'record membership'

After a year of unprecedented electoral success, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant, anti-EU National Front party is attracting more members than ever before in the 42-year-old party’s history, French media has reported. READ  

Merah-inspired jihadists 'plot attacks in France'
Both men had been motivated by the actions of Mohamed Merah, a French-Algerian national killed by French police in March 2012 after murdering seven people. Photo: AFP

Merah-inspired jihadists 'plot attacks in France'

Morocco said on Thursday it has arrested two jihadists inspired by French terrorist Mohamed Merah who were planning to attack banks and multinational companies in France and in the North African country. READ  

Halloween in France
Paris Catacombs still draw thousands
A file picture shows skulls and bones stacked at the Catacombs of Paris. Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP

Paris Catacombs still draw thousands

A place of fear, legend, inspiration and exploration, Paris's skull and bone-lined Catacombs still draw thousands of visitors each year, many of whom queue for hours to explore the ghoulish burial site. READ  

French to try out high-speed Ebola test
The trial will include a prototype device unveiled last week, similar to a home pregnancy test, that may make diagnosis possible in under 15 minutes. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

French to try out high-speed Ebola test

French researchers will conduct trials with prototype Ebola diagnostic tests in Guinea in November, with results expected within weeks for speedy deployment, the head of France's Ebola task force said on Thursday. READ  

Far-right mag's racial slur on minister nets fine
A racist magazine cover has resulted in a fine for a French publication. Photo: AFP

Far-right mag's racial slur on minister nets fine

A far-right publication that compared France's justice minister, who is black, to a monkey was hit on Thursday with a €10,000 fine for making racist statements. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles from British Airways
National
Eight Halloween events not to miss in Paris
National
10 things to never say to a French person
National
Top 10: When French translations go wrong
National
Parisian bars that serve drinkers free meals
National
France falls to Germans in nude swim tourney
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Nowhere combines sex and art quite like France
National
Why you should never turn down an invitation to a French wedding
Sport
Discover the route of the 2015 Tour de France. There are a few surprises
Gallery
Ten changes that would make learning French so much easier
Culture
IN PICTURES: 'Glass ship' Vuitton ready to set sail in Paris
International
How a giant 'sex toy' earned an American artist a slap in Paris
National
'Unlike in the US the French don't put the blame on the poor'
Gallery
Cover up and don't be too Latin: French travel warnings for the US
Society
Macholand: The online uprising against sexism in France
Gallery
In pictures: The daily life of the 2,000 migrants in Calais
Culture
Erotic promo video earns the Musée d'Orsay our "Only in France" award
International
'I love the UK, but I could die getting there': Struggles of Calais migrants
National
Seven reasons why everyone should work in a bar in France
National
The cost of expat home comforts: How France compares to Europe
International
Why don't Calais migrants stay in France? The Local went to find out
National
What are the pros and cons of working as an au pair in France?
Society
Is France's generous welfare state about to get a little stingier?
Gallery
Extraordinary images of ordinary life in the poor Paris suburbs
Gallery
10 things expats love and loathe about life in France
National
So why don't many women in France breastfeed?
National
'Stop bashing La Belle France' - French PM tells UK press
International
UK warns Brits of 'high threat' from terrorism' in France
National
VIDEO: 'The Kama Sutra is not a dirty little text'
National
What Rome could teach Paris and vice versa
Gallery
What do foreign countries warn their citizens about when visiting France?
Gallery
IN IMAGES: Eiffel Tower opens new glass floor above Paris
Society
Is it really better to grow old in the UK and the US rather than France?
Gallery
It's that time if the year again: French sportsmen reveal (almost) all
Gallery
So what do the French find really weird about Anglos?
Travel
Paris museums to open seven days a week but unions are not happy
Culture
Caption contest: What happened when Jay Z met Sark O?
International
This explains why the French never seem to get a sense of déjà vu?
National
VIDEO: Here's a view from the Eiffel Tower you haven't seen before
Travel
Do Paris's iconic rooftops deserve Unesco World Heritage status?
Opinion
'France cannot reform, the pilots' strike showed us this'
National
'We just don’t work hard enough in France.' Is that true?
International
France has moved to beef up security in various public places
National
Hiking naked in France does not come risk-free
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