• 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
Paris banking district stages France's latest mock attack
Photo: AFP

The La Defense business district in Paris was the scene of the latest mock terror attack last night, as French authorities continue to take no chances.

French cows die after eating all winter stock in one night
File photo: AFP

Half a herd of cows ate themselves to death on cereals.

Grape thieves pilfer what's left of Burgundy wine harvests
Photo: AFP

Fed up with seeing thieves pilfer their precious grapes, vineyard owners in the famous region of Burgundy are taking extreme measures for the first time.

France to clamp down on rip-off home repair workers
All photos: AFP

Ever feel you've been ripped off by a plumber, electrician, or locksmith in France?

'Rogues' go on trial for ripping shirts of Air France bosses
Photo: AFP

A court in France will decide whether ripping the shirt off your boss's back is all part and parcel of a French labour dispute.

Hollande dealt major blow as jobless rate shoots up
Photo: AFP

The news could dissuade President François Hollande from even running for re-election.

Aussie TV show accused of staging French burkini row
Photo: Channel 7 screengrab

Was an Australian TV report about France's burkini ban a set up to portray the French as "anti-Muslim"?

Five ways Paris is better than it was 15 years ago
All photos: AFP

Here's how one man says Paris has changed for the better over his last 15 years in the city.

Man in 60s wounds two in France supermarket shooting
Photo: AFP

A police SWAT team has surrounded gunman's apartment.

Paris makes 'history' by banning cars on river bank

The French capital is going green with a vengeance.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Features
Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
'Stop telling immigrants to be French and help it happen'
Society
Take the test: How far have you assimilated into French culture?
Lifestyle
Eleven things you should know before moving to Paris
National
France's Marion Cotillard rebuffs rumours of fling with Brad Pitt
National
Eight arrested over links to Nice truck attacker
Features
Why everyone should party in a French chateau at least once
Travel
The Frenchman who hated 'Nazi-Zealand' after four-day hitch-hike fail
Culture
What's on: Ten exciting events across France in September
The 45-million year old underground shells that flavour Champagne
Features
French job speak: All the terms you need to know
'Resilient' Paris now a more appealing city than New York
National
France says it's OK to warn drivers about speed cameras
Meet Honorine, 113, the oldest person in France
Education
Grenoble named France's best city to be a student
Society
New Metro map reveals cheapest pints of beer in Paris
Business & Money
How reliant is the French economy on Paris?
Society
Here's why Parisians want to move to Bordeaux
And the 'best place to spend a weekend in Europe' is… Lyon
Analysis & Opinion
'Muslims in France must be considered ordinary citizens'
Armed guards to ride French trains from October
National
France among Europe's priciest for train travel
National
Paris set to make river bank car-free for six-month trial
2,725
jobs available