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OLG Cologne on a “one star” rating of a competitor

The Cologne Higher Regional Court has ruled that a rating of a competitor with one out of five possible stars on Google without any discernible reason (in this case merely professional contact) could constitute a sweeping disparaging value judgment within the meaning of Section 4 No. 1 of the German Unfair Competition Act (UWG) and thus lead to a warning by the competitor.

(1) The evaluation of a competitor by awarding one of a possible five stars in an Internet service is a general disparaging value judgment within the meaning of Sec. 4 No. 1 UWG even if a professional contact existed, but this contact was precisely no recognizable basis for the evaluation.

2. star ratings of entrepreneurial services on Google profiles are not understood by the addressed public as a pure expression of opinion, but as a personal evaluation of a service actually used (cf. BGH, judgment of March 1, 2016 – VI ZR34/15 – In this respect, such evaluations contain a factual core to which the subjective evaluation is linked. A general disparagement which, in the absence of information about the specific circumstances to which the disparaging statement relates, does not reveal this factual reference, is exhausted in the disparagement and is therefore inadmissible entrepreneurial defamatory criticism (BGH, judgment of 19.05.2011 – I ZR 147/09 – Coaching-Newsletter; BGH, judgment of 12.12.2013; OLG Frankfurt, judgment of 27.03.2014 – 6 U 75/12; OLG Frankfurt, decision of 15.07.2021 – 6 W 40/21).

The bottom line is that you should always think twice before giving someone else, let alone a competitor, a negative review on Google. In the meantime, there is a whole series of relevant decisions on the subject complex and a quickly typed assessment can result in a rat race of trouble and costs.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.

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