Online disparagement – CJEU decides where to bring an action

In the judgment of 21 December 2021 in case C-251-20, the Court of Justice of the EU took a stance on judicial jurisdiction in cases concerning unlawful acts including acts of unfair competition committed by posting on the Internet.

The case concerned a dispute between two entities in the adult entertainment industry. One of them – a company based in Hungary – posted disparaging comments about the competitor on several websites and internet forums. The company, based in Czech Republic, whose interest have been infringed by defamatory comments, brought an action before the French court for interim measures seeking an order requiring to cease all acts of disparagement, subject to a fine, and to publish a statement in French and English on each of the internet forum in question as well as to allow to post a comment on those forums. Additionally, the Czech company requested compensation for economic damage and for non-material damage. The claims were based, inter alia, on the provisions concerning the act of unfair competition.

The reference for a preliminary ruling to the CJEU was limited to the question of the jurisdiction of the French court to hear the case.

In the context of the presented case, the CJEU interpreted art. 7(2) of the Regulation (EU) no 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2021.

Ultimately, the Court came to the conclusion that a person who, finding that his rights had been infringed by dissemination of disparaging comments concerning him, seeks not only rectification of the information and the removal of the content placed online but also compensation for the damage resulting from that placement, may claim before the court of each Member State in which those comments are or were accessible, compensation for the damage suffered in the Member State of the court seised, even though those courts do not have jurisdiction to rule on the application for rectification and removal.

Considering that acts of unfair competition occur more and more frequently online, the range of which reaches beyond national borders, the ruling of the CJEU is of significant importance to all whose interests may be infringed by defamatory statements on the Internet.

  • judgment of the CJEU of 21 December 2021, C-251/20