Deletion of Google reviews and ratings

On Google Maps, business owners can create a profile to become more visible to searching customers. People with Google account have the possibility to rate these companies by giving 1 to 5 stars. They can additionally justify and comment on their rating there with a so-called review.

However, if the rating and review are negative, this is bad for business because it can scare off customers who are looking for a company. In addition, negative feedback is said to have an impact on the company’s ranking in Google searches. So a business owner with a bad review will have a vested interest in its deletion. A deletion claim can arise for a number of reasons:

Violation of Google policy

Google itself has established and made public guidelines for inappropriate ratings and reviews. According to these, reviews that contain, among other things, obscene, vulgar or insulting language, incite hatred against minorities and in this respect even violate criminal law, are not permitted. This also applies to reviews that are not based on actual experience with the rated company or have been submitted multiple times with identical content.

1-star rating without comment

It is somewhat more difficult with 1-star ratings that do not contain such a review. In this regard, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) has ruled that a pure 1-star online rating without a justification text violates the personal rights of the entrepreneur concerned, as no treatment or business contact of the author with the company can be identified from it, ruling of the VI Civil Senate of March 1, 2016 – VI ZR 34/15.

Abusive criticism

Similarly, in the case of so-called defamatory criticism, which may also contain punishable insults, the personal rights of the person being reviewed take precedence. Criticism is deemed to be defamatory if the negative review focuses on disparaging the entrepreneur and not on the substance of the matter. However, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between a legitimate value judgment and defamatory criticism.

False statement of fact

For the chances of success of deleting other reviews, it is important whether the disagreeable text lines are value judgments or factual claims.

In this context, the rights of the rated party to the protection of its personal rights or its right to its established and practiced business must always be weighed against the rights of the rated party to the expression of opinion and Google’s right to freedom of communication.

If facts such as “There were bugs in the bed” are alleged that are untrue, then the right of the reviewer or Google is generally less worthy of protection than the entrepreneur’s right of privacy.

If the customer ratings and reviews are value judgments, such as “The service consists only of idiots,” then in principle the rater’s right to express an opinion is protected.

If Google is to delete negative ratings and reviews of customers in the company profile, an essential prerequisite for deletion is that the rated entrepreneur has made Google aware of the infringing entry. After all, Google provides online forms for this purpose. Google only has a duty to check the content posted on Google Maps when it has knowledge of illegal content. Google must then investigate the complaint and will then remove the rating. If this does not happen, the claim can be asserted in court by the company concerned.

Dr. Verena Jütte

Dr. Verena Jütte>6 Beiträge