Restaurants might not like negative Yelp and blog reviews, but there’s not much they can do about them unless they’re in France, where a judge just ordered a blogger to pay a hefty fine for going too far in her restaurant criticism.
According to The Local, last August a French food blogger who goes by the handle “L’Irrégulière” wrote a very negative review of a pizza restaurant called Il Giardino that’s located in Cap Ferret, a beach town in western France.
The blogger said her experience got off to a bad start when she was yelled at for sitting down without permission by a server she called “a harpy in a fluorescent vest.” From there, she complained that the drinks she ordered took a long time to arrive, and then she said she got into a fight with the owner, who the blogger said, “takes herself for a diva.”
After the allegedly miserable experience, the blogger went home and wrote up a review titled: “The place to avoid in Cap Ferret: Il Giardino.” That headline at one point was the fourth result on Google when one looked up the restaurant’s name.
Incensed, the owner of Il Giardino sued for defamation, saying the review was a personal attack, and the judge agreed. According to The Local, the judge said that while the review itself was protected by freedom of speech, its headline qualified as defamation. The blogger was ordered to pay €1,500 in damages and €1,000 in court costs, for a total of about $3,400.
Another French blogger and lawyer who goes by the handle Maître Eolas said the case would not set a legal precedent, but that L’Irrégulière was naïve because she went into the proceedings without hiring a lawyer of her own.
“It’s a €2,500 mistake,” Maître Eolas said. “There are arguments against this judgment and any lawyer could have found a Court of Cassation ruling that flagrantly contradicts this decision.”