Rating por­tals — over­view of case law

Sin­ce rating por­tals are beco­ming incre­asing­ly important due to the gro­wing num­ber of online pro­vi­ders, we would like to offer a well-foun­ded over­view of case law here. Due to the ever-incre­asing varie­ty of offers, it is beco­ming incre­asing­ly dif­fi­cult for cus­to­mers to judge the ext­ent to which the desi­red pro­vi­der meets their own requi­re­ments in terms of relia­bi­li­ty and cus­to­mer ser­vice.

While word of mouth, which is decisi­ve off­line, is beco­ming less and less important, cus­to­mers are now incre­asing­ly using dea­ler-owned or inde­pen­dent third-par­ty review por­tals when sel­ec­ting a shop/service pro­vi­der. In the­se, cus­to­mers have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to publicly rate their pre­vious expe­ri­en­ces with the com­pa­ny in the form of a rating sys­tem (e.g. stars, school gra­des) or in the form of a tes­ti­mo­ni­al.

Poten­ti­al cus­to­mers can then usual­ly view this rating publicly on the rating por­tal page to get an idea of the future con­tract part­ner in advan­ce.

The case law of recent years shows that the sub­mis­si­on of a valua­ti­on in par­ti­cu­lar invol­ves a wide varie­ty of legal pro­blems. Thus, it will be in the inte­rest of the rated com­pa­ny to avo­id nega­ti­ve ratings if pos­si­ble. On the other hand, it is in the inte­rest of cus­to­mers to be infor­med as truthful­ly as pos­si­ble about the prac­ti­ces of the respec­ti­ve company/service pro­vi­der. If the­se two inte­rests col­l­i­de, it is neces­sa­ry to weigh up the inte­rests of the eva­lua­ted company/service pro­vi­der and the infor­ma­ti­on inte­rest of the cus­to­mers accor­din­gly in this area of con­flict.

In the fol­lo­wing, the fun­da­men­tal issues in the use of rating por­tals will be addres­sed on the basis of cur­rent case law.

I. Pre­vent valua­tions and their pre­re­qui­si­tes

Affec­ted by an assess­ment can be natu­ral per­sons such as doc­tors or craft­smen as well as com­pa­nies such as hotels or tra­vel pro­vi­ders.

1. ratings of peo­p­le:

a.) Basic admis­si­bi­li­ty of assess­ments

The fun­da­men­tal admis­si­bi­li­ty of an eva­lua­ti­on of indi­vi­du­als is based in par­ti­cu­lar on the core ques­ti­on of the ext­ent to which the coll­ec­tion, use, etc. of the data is per­mis­si­ble at all in accordance with the Ger­man Data Pro­tec­tion Act. §§ 28, 29 BDSG is per­mis­si­ble and whe­ther the eva­lua­ti­on falls within the scope of pro­tec­tion of the fun­da­men­tal right to free­dom of opi­ni­on pur­su­ant to Art. 5 para. 1 and pos­si­bly the right to infor­ma­tio­nal self-deter­mi­na­ti­on from Art. 2 Par. 1 in con­nec­tion with. Art. 1 para. 1 GG dis­pla­ced.

The Fede­ral Court of Jus­ti­ce (BGH) dealt with the­se ques­ti­ons in the land­mark so-cal­led “Spick­mich” decis­i­on (BGH, judgment of June 23, 2009 — Case No.: VI ZR 196/08), which has sub­se­quent­ly been regu­lar­ly fol­lo­wed by the courts of ins­tance (see most recent­ly OLG Köln, judgment of Janu­ary 5, 2017 — I‑15 U 121/16).

The sub­ject of the com­plaint here was a por­tal on which tea­chers could be rated.

The court had to distin­gu­ish bet­ween the pro­tec­tion of the plaintiff’s (teacher’s) right to infor­ma­tio­nal self-deter­mi­na­ti­on under Art. 2 para. 1 GG in con­junc­tion with. Art. 1 para. 1 GG and the right to free­dom of opi­ni­on and com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on under Art. 5 Para. 1 GG to be weig­hed.

Alt­hough the court undoub­ted­ly con­siders the right to infor­ma­tio­nal self-deter­mi­na­ti­on to be affec­ted by the men­tio­ning of the teacher’s name and the asso­cia­ted gra­ding, it con­cluded after weig­hing up the mat­ter that this right is secon­da­ry to the right to free­dom of expres­si­on and com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on under Artic­le 5 (1) of the Ger­man Con­sti­tu­ti­on. 1 of the Basic Law.

In this case, the court rated the infor­ma­ti­on inte­rest for the users of the por­tal hig­her than the right to infor­ma­tio­nal self-deter­mi­na­ti­on.

It should be noted, howe­ver, that such a con­side­ra­ti­on must always be made on a case-by-case basis. Accor­ding to the case law of the Fede­ral Court of Jus­ti­ce (Bun­des­ge­richts­hof, BGH), rating por­tals are thus con­side­red to be fun­da­men­tal­ly pro­tec­ted by free­dom of expres­si­on under Art. 5 Para. 1 pro­tec­ted, but this does not mean that the user is given car­te blan­che with regard to his rating.

Thus, what infor­ma­ti­on is dis­c­lo­sed as part of the assess­ment can be cri­ti­cal. For exam­p­le, it can make a dif­fe­rence whe­ther the infor­ma­ti­on is from the social or work envi­ron­ment or pri­va­te infor­ma­ti­on. Whe­re­as the for­mer are car­ri­ed to the out­side by the data sub­ject hims­elf (cf. Sec­tion 29 (1) no. 2 BDSG) and, as a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple, are car­ri­ed to the out­side by the data sub­ject. are open to ever­yo­ne, pri­va­te or inti­ma­te infor­ma­ti­on regu­lar­ly does not reach the public and the­r­e­fo­re enjoys increased pro­tec­tion.

The Fede­ral Court of Jus­ti­ce also allows the right to infor­ma­tio­nal self-deter­mi­na­ti­on to take a back seat in the con­text of its weig­hing of inte­rests becau­se the infor­ma­ti­on that beca­me known in the con­text of the tea­cher eva­lua­ti­on was only attri­bu­ta­ble to the social sphe­re of the tea­cher. The right to infor­ma­tio­nal self-deter­mi­na­ti­on is the­r­e­fo­re only mar­gi­nal­ly affec­ted (also Düs­sel­dorf Regio­nal Court, judgment of April 9, 2013 — 5 O 141/12, Kiel Regio­nal Court, judgment of Decem­ber 6, 2013 — 5 O 372/13).

It fol­lows that, abo­ve all, ratings based on pri­va­te or inti­ma­te infor­ma­ti­on are likely to be inad­mis­si­ble as a rule.

It should be noted that the abo­ve-men­tio­ned “Spick­mich” decis­i­on con­cer­ned an eva­lua­ti­on forum that could only be view­ed after pri­or regis­tra­ti­on. In the mean­ti­me, howe­ver, case law has also dealt with publicly viewa­ble rating por­tals (see OLG Hamm, decis­i­on dated August 3, 2011 — Ref.: 3 U 196/10) and appli­ed the abo­ve prin­ci­ples accor­din­gly. Such valua­tions are also gene­ral­ly made. con­side­red per­mis­si­ble. Howe­ver, the OLG Hamm points out that the weig­hing must also be car­ri­ed out on the basis of the group of per­sons affec­ted. If the per­son con­cer­ned (in this case: doc­tor) addres­ses his offer to ever­yo­ne, the­re is also an over­ri­ding inte­rest in infor­ma­ti­on for ever­yo­ne.

b) Limits within the frame­work of the balan­cing in the case of eva­lua­ti­on por­tals

Howe­ver, fol­lo­wing the estab­lished case law of the Fede­ral Con­sti­tu­tio­nal Court (cf. Order of Febru­ary 24, 1999 — 1 BvR 1847/95, with fur­ther refe­ren­ces), the Fede­ral Court of Jus­ti­ce also indi­ca­tes in the “Spick­mich” decis­i­on that an eva­lua­ti­on in an indi­vi­du­al case may not be cover­ed by Artic­le 5 (1) of the Ger­man Con­sti­tu­ti­on. 1 of the Ger­man Con­sti­tu­ti­on (GG), pro­vi­ded that it is so-cal­led defa­ma­to­ry cri­ti­cism.

Accor­ding to the BVerfG, defa­ma­to­ry cri­ti­cism is always pre­sent when the state­ment no lon­ger focu­ses on the sub­s­tance of the mat­ter, but rather on defa­ma­ti­on of the per­son, even bey­ond pole­mi­cal and exag­ge­ra­ted cri­ti­cism (cf. BVerfGE 82, 272 <284>).

An eva­lua­ti­on is thus regu­lar­ly inad­mis­si­ble and no lon­ger cover­ed by Art. 5 Par. 1 of the Ger­man Basic Law (GG), inso­far as they are mere for­mal insults or attacks on human digni­ty, for exam­p­le (cf. BGH, judgment of June 23, 2009 — Case No.: VI ZR 196/08).

A fur­ther boun­da­ry is to be drawn whe­re the state­ment is no lon­ger a state­ment of opi­ni­on but a state­ment of fact.

Expres­si­ons of opi­ni­on are such state­ments that are cha­rac­te­ri­zed by the ele­ment of opi­ni­on, opi­ni­on or opi­ni­on (BVerfGE 85, 1 <14 f.>), while facts are in prin­ci­ple amenable to veri­fi­ca­ti­on by means of evi­dence (BVerfGE 94, 1 <8>). In indi­vi­du­al cases, howe­ver, facts may also fall under the pro­tec­tion of free­dom of opi­ni­on, pro­vi­ded that they are decisi­ve for the for­ma­ti­on of the opi­ni­on (BVerfGE 85, 1 <14 f.>).

As a rule, not cover­ed by the pro­tec­tion of free­dom of expres­si­on and com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on under Art. 5 para. 1 GG, such fac­tu­al alle­ga­ti­ons fall that are deli­bera­te­ly untrue or demons­tra­b­ly fal­se (BVerfG, decis­i­on of Octo­ber 25, 2005 — 1 BvR 1696/98). This means that such ent­ries on rating por­tals are gene­ral­ly inad­mis­si­ble.

Simi­lar­ly, an eva­lua­ti­on may be inad­mis­si­ble if it is not based on a suf­fi­ci­ent fac­tu­al basis and, for exam­p­le, the inves­ti­ga­ti­on on which a restau­rant test is based was not car­ri­ed out neu­tral­ly, com­pe­tent­ly and in an effort to ensu­re accu­ra­cy (see OLG Köln, judgment of May 3, 2011 — I‑15 U 194/10).

2. valua­ti­on of com­pa­nies:

Apart from the eva­lua­ti­on of natu­ral per­sons, such as tea­chers, the­re are also an incre­asing num­ber of por­tals on the Inter­net whe­re cus­to­mers can eva­lua­te com­pa­nies such as hotels or tra­vel pro­vi­ders.

Such assess­ments may vio­la­te the so-cal­led “cor­po­ra­te per­so­na­li­ty right” pur­su­ant to Art. 2 para. 1 GG and/or also con­sti­tu­te an encroach­ment on the estab­lished and prac­ti­ced busi­ness pur­su­ant to §§ 823 I BGB.

Here, too, the core issue is the ext­ent to which the cor­po­ra­te per­so­na­li­ty right from Art. 2 para. 1 GG with the fun­da­men­tal right of free­dom of com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on and opi­ni­on from Art. 5 Para. 1 GG must be weig­hed against each other.

This issue has also recent­ly occu­p­ied the courts (OLG Ham­burg, judgment of Janu­ary 18, 2012 — Case No. 5 U 51/11, OLG Stutt­gart, judgment of Sep­tem­ber 11, 2013 — 4 U 88/13).

Fol­lo­wing the abo­ve-men­tio­ned “Spick­mich” decis­i­on, case law has also ruled that com­pa­ny ratings are gene­ral­ly cover­ed by free­dom of expres­si­on and are the­r­e­fo­re per­mis­si­ble.

Howe­ver, the abo­ve-men­tio­ned limits and excep­ti­ons also app­ly here (e.g. no defa­ma­to­ry cri­ti­cism, no untrue state­ments of fact).

In the entre­pre­neu­ri­al area, the spe­cial fea­ture ari­ses that the eva­lua­ti­on of a com­pa­ny by ano­ther com­pe­ting com­pa­ny is an unfair act from the point of view of com­pe­ti­ti­on law accor­ding to § 4 para. 1 No. 1 and No. 2 UWG. Howe­ver, the prin­ci­ples men­tio­ned so far can be trans­fer­red accor­din­gly in this respect, sin­ce within the scope of § 4 para. 1 No. 1 UWG cor­re­spon­ding to defa­ma­to­ry cri­ti­cism and within the scope of Sec­tion 4 para. 1 No. 2 UWG, untrue state­ments of fact are gene­ral­ly inad­mis­si­ble. Also, an obs­truc­tion of the mar­ket par­ti­ci­pant accor­ding to 4 No. 4 UWG is only pre­sent if the cus­to­mers are unre­ason­ab­ly influen­ced. Howe­ver, this cha­rac­te­ristic is pro­ba­b­ly often not pre­sent in the case of rating por­tals (cf. OLG Colo­gne, judgment of Janu­ary 5, 2017 — I‑15 U 121/16).

3. con­clu­si­on on eva­lua­ti­on por­tals:

Final­ly, it can be sum­ma­ri­zed that eva­lua­tions, as long as they adhe­re to the abo­ve-men­tio­ned limits, are gene­ral­ly pro­tec­ted by Art. 5 para. 1 sen­tence 1 of the Ger­man Basic Law and are the­r­e­fo­re per­mis­si­ble in prin­ci­ple.

II. How to take action against ille­gal ratings?

Basi­cal­ly, the­re are two opti­ons. The per­son con­cer­ned can initi­al­ly take action against the aut­hor hims­elf or against the rating por­tal.

1. action against the aut­hor of the eva­lua­ti­on

Inso­far as the respec­ti­ve aut­hor of the eva­lua­ti­on is known, the lat­ter may hims­elf initi­al­ly be held lia­ble on the basis of §§ 823, 1004 para. 1 S. 2 ana­log BGB u.U. i.V.m. Art. 2 para. 1 GG by way of a war­ning by means of a cea­se-and-desist decla­ra­ti­on with a penal­ty clau­se to cea­se and desist from the cor­re­spon­ding eva­lua­ti­on. This injunc­ti­ve reli­ef can then sub­se­quent­ly be enforced in court by way of inte­rim reli­ef and/or by way of pro­cee­dings on the merits in court. In addi­ti­on, the­re are also claims for dama­ges and cri­mi­nal offen­ses such as, in par­ti­cu­lar, insul­ting beha­vi­or pur­su­ant to §§ 3 and 4 of the Ger­man Civil Code. § 185 StGB, defa­ma­ti­on gem. § 186 StGB and defa­ma­ti­on acc. § Sec­tion 187 of the Ger­man Cri­mi­nal Code (StGB).

Howe­ver, the ques­ti­on ari­ses as to how to pro­ceed if the aut­hor has sub­mit­ted the rating anony­mously.

First of all, it should be noted that the anony­mous use of so-cal­led tele­me­dia (e.g. Inter­net pages) pur­su­ant to § 13 para. 6 p. 1 TMG must be pos­si­ble anony­mously by law. The­re is the­r­e­fo­re an obli­ga­ti­on to pro­vi­de per­so­nal data in the eva­lua­ti­on. not, as the anony­mous use of the Inter­net is in line with the legal inte­rests (see OLG Hamm, decis­i­on of August 3, 2011 — Ref.: 3 U 196/10). The assess­ment of anony­mous ratings is based on the prin­ci­ples deve­lo­ped in the “Spick­mich” decis­i­on, among others (cf. OLG Hamm, loc. cit.). Ano­ther ques­ti­on, howe­ver, is whe­ther from § 13 para. 6 sen­tence 1 of the Ger­man Tele­me­dia Act (TMG) also pro­hi­bits the por­tal ope­ra­tor from pro­vi­ding infor­ma­ti­on.

a. Right to infor­ma­ti­on from the forum ope­ra­tor

If the rating was anony­mous or at least under a pseud­onym, the ques­ti­on ari­ses for tho­se affec­ted to what ext­ent they can demand infor­ma­ti­on from the rating por­tal ope­ra­tor about the aut­hor of the rating, pro­vi­ded that the lat­ter has any fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on at all.

While some courts, refer­ring to the legal­ly gua­ran­teed anony­mi­ty from § 13 para. 6 p. 1 of the Ger­man Tele­me­dia Act (TMG) (OLG Hamm, decis­i­on of August 3, 2011 — Ref.: 3 U 196/10, LG Mün­chen I, decis­i­on of July 3, 2013 — Ref.: 25 O 23782/12), indi­vi­du­al courts deri­ve such a right to infor­ma­ti­on from good faith pur­su­ant to Sec­tion 242 of the Ger­man Civil Code (BGB), pro­vi­ded that the inf­rin­ge­ment is estab­lished and the por­tal ope­ra­tor can obtain the infor­ma­ti­on wit­hout dif­fi­cul­ty (OLG Dres­den — decis­i­on of Febru­ary 8, 2012, Ref.: 4 U 1850/11).

Howe­ver, this con­tro­ver­si­al issue is likely to have lost its rele­van­ce at the latest as a result of the BGH’s decis­i­on on this issue (BGH ruling of July 1, 2014 — VI ZR 345/13). In this decis­i­on, the BGH had to rule on a physician’s cla­im for infor­ma­ti­on against the ope­ra­tors of a phy­si­ci­an rating por­tal. In this case, the Fede­ral Court of Jus­ti­ce denied a cla­im to infor­ma­ti­on on the grounds that the por­tal ope­ra­tor was not lia­ble for the loss of the por­tal pur­su­ant to Sec­tion 12 (1) of the Ger­man Civil Code (BGB). 2 TMG is not aut­ho­ri­zed to dis­c­lo­se the regis­tra­ti­on data coll­ec­ted for the pro­vi­si­on of the tele­me­di­um, and the­re is no basis for aut­ho­riza­ti­on in this respect. This opi­ni­on now also appears to be fol­lo­wed by the courts of ins­tance (cf. most recent­ly OLG Colo­gne, judgment of Janu­ary 5, 2017 — I‑15 U 121/16).

2. action against rating por­tals them­sel­ves

Alter­na­tively, the affec­ted par­ty can also demand the dele­ti­on of the rating from the por­tal its­elf under cer­tain con­di­ti­ons.

a. Basi­cal­ly no lia­bi­li­ty of the por­tals if assess­ment of Art. 5 para. 1 GG is cover­ed

Pro­vi­ded that the rating is within the abo­ve-men­tio­ned limits, the per­son con­cer­ned can­not demand dele­ti­on from the respec­ti­ve rating por­tal. Also with regard to per­so­nal data, the Fede­ral Data Pro­tec­tion Act gene­ral­ly does not give rise to a cla­im for dele­ti­on if (as in the case of doc­tors, for exam­p­le) the name and address are publicly acces­si­ble any­way (cf. Sec­tion 29 (1) sen­tence 1 no. 2 BDSG; OLG Frank­furt, judgment of March 8, 2012 — 16 U 125/11, AG Mün­chen judgment of Octo­ber 12, 2012 — 158 C 13912/12). Here, too, free­dom of opi­ni­on and com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on pre­vail on the part of the por­tal ope­ra­tor (see Düs­sel­dorf Regio­nal Court, judgment of April 9, 2013 — 5 O 141/12, Kiel Regio­nal Court, judgment of Decem­ber 6, 2013 — 5 O 372/13, Colo­gne Hig­her Regio­nal Court, judgment of Janu­ary 5, 2017 — I‑15 U 121/16).

It should be noted that in addi­ti­on to Sec­tion 29 of the BDSG, the OLG Colo­gne also indi­ca­ted that the stric­ter Sec­tion 28 of the BDSG is rele­vant. This is said to be the case when­ever the por­tal also con­cludes a con­tract with the rated par­ties them­sel­ves (here: phy­si­ci­ans). Sin­ce in this case the por­tal also pur­sues its own busi­ness pur­po­ses, Sec­tion 28 BDSG is to be appli­ed in addi­ti­on to Sec­tion 29 BDSG. Howe­ver, the Colo­gne Hig­her Regio­nal Court (OLG) also comes to the same con­clu­si­on in the con­text of Sec­tion 28 (1) of the Ger­man Civil Code (HGB). 1 S. 1 No. 3 BDSG, the eva­lua­ti­on is per­mis­si­ble (OLG Köln, loc. cit.).

b.) Lia­bi­li­ty of the por­tals in the event of ratings that con­sti­tu­te vio­la­ti­ons of the law

Howe­ver, if the rating exceeds the legal limits (e.g. insult, untrue state­ment of fact, other vio­la­ti­ons of the law), the por­tal ope­ra­tor may also be requi­red to dele­te it under cer­tain con­di­ti­ons.

Even if the por­tal ope­ra­tors do not wri­te the ent­ry them­sel­ves, i.e. they are not the direct per­pe­tra­tors, they are lia­ble accor­ding to the prin­ci­ples of “Stoe­rer­haf­tung” (Breach of Duty of Care). A “Stoe­rer” is anyo­ne who in any way wil­lingly and ade­qua­te­ly-cau­sal­ly con­tri­bu­tes to the inf­rin­ge­ment of the pro­tec­ted legal inte­rest (BGH, Default Judgment of Octo­ber 25, 2011 — VI ZR 93/10 m.w.n., LG Ham­burg, judgment of March 24, 2017 — 324 O 148/16).

In order to avo­id exces­si­ve lia­bi­li­ty, case law has deve­lo­ped cer­tain cri­te­ria for asses­sing the capa­ci­ty to inter­fe­re in order to take account of the spe­cial cir­cum­s­tances of the Inter­net.

Thus, the BGH (cf. BGH loc. cit.) appli­es the prin­ci­ples alre­a­dy deve­lo­ped in the con­text of other Inter­net ser­vices (BGH, judgment of March 11, 2004 — I ZR 304/01 , BGH, default judgment of Octo­ber 25, 2011 — VI ZR 93/10) now also to rating plat­forms (cf. BGH, judgment of March 01, 2016 — VI ZR 34/15). Accor­din­gly, a plat­form ope­ra­tor is only a “Stoe­rer” (inter­fe­rer) as soon as it beco­mes awa­re of the inf­rin­ge­ments. The por­tal ope­ra­tor shall then deter­mi­ne and eva­lua­te the facts of the case on the basis of the alle­ga­ti­on of the per­son con­cer­ned and taking into account a state­ment of the per­son respon­si­ble for the eva­lua­ti­on and shall fol­low up on a spe­ci­fic com­plaint of the per­son con­cer­ned. The scope of the duty to review is based on a weig­hing of inte­rests in the indi­vi­du­al case.

Howe­ver, case law indi­ca­tes that the por­tal ope­ra­tor may not be satis­fied with blan­ket assu­ran­ces from the respon­si­ble rater. Against the back­ground of the sub­stan­tia­ted deni­al, he must rather demand sui­ta­ble pro­of of the fac­tu­al basis, e.g. by sub­mit­ting sui­ta­ble evi­dence (see BGH, default judgment of Octo­ber 25, 2011 — VI ZR 93/10, LG Nürn­berg-Fürth, order of May 08, 2012 — 11 O 2608/12).

Alt­hough the Fede­ral Court of Jus­ti­ce does not express­ly com­ment on the obli­ga­ti­on to dele­te con­tent on rating por­tals in the abo­ve-men­tio­ned decis­i­on, it can be assu­med from pre­vious case law on Inter­net ser­vices that dele­ti­on must take place in the event of an inf­rin­ge­ment (Fede­ral Court of Jus­ti­ce, judgment of March 11, 2004 — I ZR 304/01, on the obli­ga­ti­on to dele­te con­tent on blogs: BGH, default judgment of Octo­ber 25, 2011 — VI ZR 93/10). Thus, the courts of ins­tance also regu­lar­ly assu­me an obli­ga­ti­on to dele­te in the event of an inf­rin­ge­ment (thus also OLG Colo­gne, judgment of Janu­ary 5, 2017 — I‑15 U 121/16 -, LG Ham­burg, judgment of March 24, 2017 — 324 O 148/16, on the obli­ga­ti­on to dele­te in the case of blogs: OLG Colo­gne, judgment of Janu­ary 05, 2017 — I‑15 U 121/16). Howe­ver, it is unclear whe­ther, in accordance with the case law on trade­mark law, the por­tal ope­ra­tor must then reason­ab­ly pre­vent fur­ther inf­rin­ge­ments by a respon­si­ble par­ty who has alre­a­dy attrac­ted atten­ti­on (see BGH, judgment of March 11, 2004 — I ZR 304/01). The case law on unlawful forum ent­ries pro­ba­b­ly tends towards a limi­t­ed duty of review, pro­vi­ded that the ent­ries can be review­ed with a reasonable amount of effort (see Han­sea­tic Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Ham­burg, judgment of August 22, 2006 — 7 U 50/06). Thus, the audit requi­re­ment is likely to be a mat­ter of case-by-case assess­ment.

Howe­ver, the por­tal ope­ra­tor is not obli­ged to check the lega­li­ty of every rating in advan­ce.

The ext­ent to which the lia­bi­li­ty pri­vi­le­ge under Sec­tion 10 of the Ger­man Tele­me­dia Act (TMG) appli­es to rating por­tal ope­ra­tors has not yet been cla­ri­fied.

While the Fede­ral Court of Jus­ti­ce (BGH) refers to Sec­tion 10 of the Ger­man Tele­me­dia Act (TMG) only in rela­ti­on to lia­bi­li­ty for dama­ges and cri­mi­nal lia­bi­li­ty (see BGH, judgment by default of Octo­ber 25, 2011 — VI ZR 93/10, also BGH, judgment of July 12, 2012 — I ZR 18/11), the courts of ins­tance (KG Ber­lin, judgment of April 16, 2013 — 5 U. April 2013 — 5 U 63/12) app­ly Sec­tion 10 of the Ger­man Tele­me­dia Act (TMG) in part to claims for injunc­ti­ve reli­ef, fol­lo­wing the case law of the Euro­pean Court of Jus­ti­ce (ECJ, judgment of March 23, 2010 — C‑236/08 to C‑238/08, ECJ, judgment of July 12, 2011 — C‑324/09).

c.) Lia­bi­li­ty of the por­tals when “making” the assess­ment

Accor­ding to case law (BGH, judgment of Novem­ber 12, 2009 — I ZR 166/07, KG Ber­lin, judgment of April 16, 2013 — 5 U 63/12, BGH, judgment of April 4, 2017 — VI ZR 123/16), howe­ver, rating por­tals can also be inter­fe­rers and thus lia­ble them­sel­ves if they make a user’s ent­ry their own. In this con­text, it must be exami­ned on the basis of an over­all view whe­ther the por­tal ope­ra­tor has assu­med respon­si­bi­li­ty for the con­tent published on its web­site in a man­ner that is reco­gnizable to the out­side world.

Accor­ding to this, it speaks for such an attri­bu­ti­on if the por­tal ope­ra­tor edi­to­ri­al­ly checks the con­tent of the pos­ted con­tri­bu­ti­ons for com­ple­ten­ess and cor­rect­ness and then, in par­ti­cu­lar wit­hout con­sul­ting the third par­ty, inde­pendent­ly chan­ges or par­ti­al­ly remo­ves them, for exam­p­le. This assump­ti­on of respon­si­bi­li­ty for the con­tent at least has an exter­nal effect if the por­tal ope­ra­tor informs the per­son affec­ted by the cri­ti­cism of the chan­ges, par­ti­al rem­ovals, etc. The por­tal ope­ra­tor is not respon­si­ble for the con­tent of the por­tal. The con­se­quence is that the por­tal ope­ra­tor is then to be regard­ed as a direct inter­fe­rer.

III. action by por­tals against unlawful ratings

If the por­tal ope­ra­tor wants to keep open the pos­si­bi­li­ty to exclude rele­vant users from its por­tal, it can defi­ne the terms of use in prin­ci­ple. by agre­e­ing on spe­ci­fic terms of use in the form of GTCs. The legal limits within which such agree­ments are per­mis­si­ble depend on the indi­vi­du­al case (see LG Mün­chen I, judgment of Octo­ber 25, 2006 — Case No. 30 O 11973/05).

Howe­ver, it is ques­tionable whe­ther the por­tal ope­ra­tor can exclude cer­tain users even wit­hout spe­cial terms and con­di­ti­ons. Case law grants the por­tal ope­ra­tor a so-cal­led “vir­tu­al domic­i­lia­ry right” (cf. for chat pages: OLG Köln decis­i­on 25.8.2000 19 U 2/00).

If the por­tal ope­ra­tor is the owner of the hard­ware, ser­ver, etc., this fol­lows from §§ 903 S. 1 Alt. 2, 1004 BGB, if he has ren­ted it the pro­tec­tion from the pos­ses­si­on pro­tec­tion claims of §§ 858, 862 BGB fol­lows (so also LG Munich I, loc. cit.).

In addi­ti­on, a con­tract regar­ding the use of the por­tal is regu­lar­ly con­cluded bet­ween the user and the por­tal ope­ra­tor, so that the por­tal ope­ra­tor may ter­mi­na­te this con­tract in accordance with the requi­re­ments of Sec­tion 314 of the Ger­man Civil Code (BGB) if the­re is good cau­se to do so. can ter­mi­na­te the con­tract wit­hout noti­ce after pri­or war­ning (also LG Mün­chen I, loc.cit.).

Howe­ver, whe­ther such an important reason exists is again a ques­ti­on of the indi­vi­du­al case.

The ques­ti­on of the ext­ent to which por­tal ope­ra­tors can ter­mi­na­te the con­trac­tu­al rela­ti­onship at any time wit­hout cau­se, other than for good cau­se, has not been cla­ri­fied by the hig­hest court.

While the AG Karls­ru­he affirms the pos­si­bi­li­ty of ter­mi­na­ti­on wit­hout cau­se in the case of free ser­vices with refe­rence to the free­dom of con­tract (cf. AG Karls­ru­he, judgment of July 24, 2012 — file refe­rence 8 C 220/12), the LG Bonn rejects ter­mi­na­ti­on wit­hout cau­se in any case if the ope­ra­tor has fun­da­men­tal­ly pro­hi­bi­ted the use of the ser­vice. ope­ned to ever­yo­ne. An arbi­tra­ry ter­mi­na­ti­on and an arbi­tra­ry exclu­si­on would then be con­tra­ry to good faith due to the vio­la­ti­on of § 242 BGB and the­r­e­fo­re inad­mis­si­ble (cf. LG Bonn, judgment of Novem­ber 16, 1999 — 10 O 457/99).

Simi­lar­ly, a por­tal ope­ra­tor can defend its­elf against unlawful con­duct by a com­pe­ti­tor by way of IP blo­cking (see Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Hamm, judgment of June 10, 2008 — 4 U 37/08) or assert a cla­im for injunc­ti­ve reli­ef under com­pe­ti­ti­on law (e.g., in the case of tar­ge­ted obs­truc­tion) pur­su­ant to Sec­tion 4 No. 4 in con­junc­tion with Sec­tion 8 UWG. § Sec­tion 8 UWG (cf. Han­sea­tic Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Ham­burg, judgment of May 28, 2009 — 3 U 191/08).

IV. How are fal­si­fied cus­to­mer ratings to be eva­lua­ted?

Cus­to­mer reviews can be ske­wed in a num­ber of ways. On the one hand, nega­ti­ve ratings can be sup­pres­sed, high ran­kings can be bought or the rating result can be influen­ced by pla­cing so-cal­led “fake ratings”.

The OLG Düs­sel­dorf has alre­a­dy clas­si­fied the sup­pres­si­on of nega­ti­ve ratings as mis­lea­ding and thus inad­mis­si­ble (see OLG Düs­sel­dorf, judgment of Febru­ary 19, 2013 — Case No. 20 U 55/12). Like­wi­se, the Ber­lin Regio­nal Court con­siders a mis­lea­ding com­mer­cial act to exist if hotels are gran­ted the oppor­tu­ni­ty to posi­tively influence a ran­king by incre­asing com­mis­si­ons (see Ber­lin Regio­nal Court, decis­i­on of August 25, 2011 — 16 O 418/11). In this respect, the con­su­mer does not expect that pay­ments by the hotel would influence the ran­king (cf. LG Ber­lin loc.cit.).

The abo­ve-men­tio­ned prin­ci­ples are likely to be appli­ed to fake ratings, so that the­se are likely to be inad­mis­si­ble in this respect.

If you have any fur­ther inte­rest in the legal issues sur­roun­ding rating por­tals or requi­re legal assis­tance on the sub­ject, plea­se do not hesi­ta­te to cont­act us at info@rehkatsch.de or by tele­pho­ne on 0221–4201074.

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