Business Law

Negative Amazon review leads trader to claim EUR 70,000 compensation

The Augsburger Allgemeine reports that an Amazon customer is being sued for EUR 70,000 after leaving a negative online review. The compensation is being sought by a trader, whose account was suspended, allegedly as a result of the negative review. Is the trader’s action justified?

Negative Amazon review leads trader to claim EUR 70,000 compensation ©-jehafo-Fotolia

Negative Amazon review leads trader to claim EUR 70,000 compensation ©-jehafo-Fotolia

Amazon customer review

An Amazon customer who bought a fly screen for EUR 22.51 is being sued for EUR 70,000 compensation after leaving a negative review.

The customer had been unsatisfied with the assembly instructions and left a negative review about the trader. Following the publication of the review, the trader concerned threatened to report the review. This led the customer to complain directly to Amazon, which suspended the traders account. The trader then brought a claim against the customer for EUR 70,000 for lost earnings.

German lawyer, Christian Solmecke, explains whether the trader’s action is justified: “In principle, any reviews posted on online review portals must be true. The first thing to investigate here is whether the review is untrue or not.

Insults are impermissible

“Negative reviews can also be prohibited if their content can be considered insulting or abusive. This does not apply to the current case as the negative review is more an expression of opinion than it is an insult.

“It may also be prudent to separate the disputed Amazon review into two parts: firstly, the star rating could be considered an expression of opinion. This is generally protected and is therefore permissible. The statement concerning the instruction manual could be an untrue assertion of fact.

“If this is the case, and the trader’s account was suspended as a result of the statement, the trader may be able to claim compensation for the violation of the business’ personality rights. If however, the account is closed simply as a consequence of the star rating, the customer cannot be accused of anything, as the negative rating is protected by the right to freedom of expression. In the same token, if there were already 20 negative reviews, and this latest review was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back, the customer cannot be held solely responsible.

“It may also be possible that Amazon blocked the trader’s account due to the message from the customer about the trader’s threat to report the review. Here, it would be necessary to discover whether the threat was indeed real.

“If it turns out that the trader’s account was blocked purely as a result of the customer’s negative review, it will be necessary to assess whether the closure of the account led to a loss of revenue. In such a case, the loss of revenue cannot be claimed in full. Instead only actual damage can be claimed, which in this case may be lost profit.

“In the case of bad reviews, it can often be difficult to calculate the precise damage caused by a particular incorrect review. However, if causation can be shown in this case, the sum of damages may be easier to calculate.

“The result of the case will rest on the court’s assessment of the evidence.”

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Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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