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TKenney, Ph.D.
TKenney, Ph.D., French Attorney (Avocat à la Cour)
Category: French Law
Satisfied Customers: 825
Experience:  Practicing law in France, 10+ years of experience on Paris Bar. Taught French Business Law in US
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I posted a negative but factual review on Trip Advisor. I then

Customer Question

I posted a negative but factual review on Trip Advisor. I then stated my opinion of the establishment concerned and warned others against staying there, because of my bad experience. The Hotel owner asked to meet me to discuss the review - I thought this was because he genuinely wanted to understand what went wrong, make some changes and apologise, so agreed. On meeting him, he became increasingly hostile and then said he would close down my business in France and report me to the tax authorities because I was not registered in France and therefore a 'tax dodger' (wholly untrue - and witnessed by two other people). He also said he would 'fight fire with fire' because I had damaged his business with my review and would begin legal action against me for damages. Obviously, I cannot expect specific advice here but what is your sense of his position under French law?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: French Law
Expert:  TKenney, Ph.D. replied 1 year ago.

TKenney, Ph.D. :

Hello.

Customer:

Good evening. How can I help?

TKenney, Ph.D. :

Thank you first for understanding that it is against the JustAnswer policy to advise customers on this website. While I am indeed a French lawyer in Paris, on this website, I am just a French law expert answering questions on French law and on my free time. I did not advise you, I just answered your question in accordance to what you can do under French law.

TKenney, Ph.D. :

In order for me (or any lawyer, solicitor, or barrister) to counsel someone and tell them what they should do, I would need to see him/her (in person or on the phone), see all his/her documents, see all his/her evidence, get all the facts, understand the whole situation, ask a lot of questions, and establish a formal attorney client relation. In fact, the Just Answer disclaimer clearly states the following: "Posts are for general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional advice (medical, legal, veterinary, financial, etc.), and do not establish a professional-client relationship." No attorney client relationship will or has been formed.

TKenney, Ph.D. :

It sounds like he is bluffing and trying to get you to remove the bad review.

TKenney, Ph.D. :

There are indeed many thisngs he can do if what you wrote is not true.

TKenney, Ph.D. :

However, one must never under-estimate these types of people.

TKenney, Ph.D. :

He can not close down your business, however he can send letters to bother you.

Customer:

In fact, that's what he asked me to do. I said I would modify it and have sent him a proposed draft, pointing out to him that Trip Advisor takes a strong stance against hotel owners who try to bully reviews which meet their posting policy. He's rich and has access to a legal team. I think I am being reasonable in offering to modify my comments, which are just my opinion, and all of my comments are statements of fact about mistakes his team made.

TKenney, Ph.D. :

It sounds like this rich guy is abusing his powers.

TKenney, Ph.D. :

You need to see if you want to go the legal route and fight for your rights or give in. There are legal things you can do too. You can even file a criminal complaint.

Customer:

Is there a 'fair comment' protection in French law, as there is in the UK, and if so, do you think that would more than likely apply here? My motivation for posting the bad review was to prevent others from going through the same poor experience I had. He sees it as malicious and designed to do maximum damage to his business

TKenney, Ph.D. :

A lawyer would need to see the website and the comment you wrote to see if it is acceptable or libel (defamation by written or printed words) which is a criminal offense under French law.

TKenney, Ph.D. :

There is no fair comment protection law in France, per se.

Customer:

So is that as far as we can go here? Your advice is to have to comment reviewed so that an opinion can be given?

TKenney, Ph.D. :

A criminal juge will have to see if what you wrote was "freedom of speech" or libel.

TKenney, Ph.D. :

I did not understand your question : "Your advice is to have to comment reviewed so that an opinion can be given?"

Customer:

Sorry - typing too fast: "Your advice is to have the comment that I posted reviewed so that an opinion can be given?"

Customer:

still there?

TKenney, Ph.D. :






In France, libel (written defamation) is a criminal offense under the "allegation or imputation of a fact that undermines the honor or reputation of the person to whom the act is attributed." In the absence of facts alleged, it is an insult (under the provisions of Art. 29 of the Law of 29 July 1881)

TKenney, Ph.D. :

Yes I am still here. I am translating a text into English for you.

TKenney, Ph.D. :

My advice would be to get a lawyer (avocat) to go over all the elements of your case to see if the rich guy may have a case.

Customer:

Thanks - and does the same law apply equally to a hotel (i.e. a business)?

Customer:

And would you advise me to do that immediately or wait and see if he begins action against me or really is bluffing?

TKenney, Ph.D. :

To challenge the defamatory imputation or allegation, the defendant will have to demonstrate good faith to the French criminal court's, since the intention is presumed guilty in the matter.

- Good faith: can be demonstrated in different ways by which the defendant may allege

- sincerity: the author had sufficient element to believe in the truth of the facts stated

- the pursuit of a legitimate aim, the words are intended to inform and not to harm;

- proportionality of purpose and damage;

- the sake of caution.

Although the defamatory imputation or allegation is reported, the defendant may still be aquitted in some cases only under the French notion of “exceptional principle of truth.”

TKenney, Ph.D. :

Yes, this law applies to businesses.

Customer:

OK, so 'guilty until proved innocent' in effect! If you could just answer the second half of my last posting - after that it sounds like we've taken this as far as we can on here?

TKenney, Ph.D. :

Your question was "And would you advise me to do that immediately or wait and see if he begins action against me or really is bluffing?"

- again, it is against the JustAnswer policy to advise customers on this website. A lawyer will need to see what you wrote and under what condition in order to advise you what to do. Maybe what you wrote is harmless, maybe it is not. Only after reviewing what you wrote will a lawyer be able to answer your question.

TKenney, Ph.D. :

No, in France (like the rest of Europe) one is innocent until proven guilty.

Customer:

OK. Sounds like we're done then. Anything more you feel I should know on this issue?

TKenney, Ph.D. :

Rememebr you can be sued for libel or insult. Two different things.

TKenney, Ph.D. :

I hope this helps. Thank you for using Just Answer/Pearl. Please note that I earn my living by helping customers like you. Please do not forget to rate positively my answer otherwise I will not get compensated for my work.

Customer:

Understood. I found your comments helpful, so thanks.

TKenney, Ph.D., French Attorney (Avocat à la Cour)
Category: French Law
Satisfied Customers: 825
Experience: Practicing law in France, 10+ years of experience on Paris Bar. Taught French Business Law in US
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