AG in Bolagsupplysningen rules on jurisdiction in online defamation case

For internet defamation claims, the place where a company mainly conducts its business is likely to be the place where its reputation was most strongly affected.

The advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has delivered his opinion that a business claiming online defamation can take legal action in the Member State where it believes the most damage was done rather than where it mainly does business.

In an opinion published this week, Advocate General Michal Bobek said the place ‘where the harm occurred is likely to be where the reputation of the person was most strongly hit’.

The opinion comes after Bolagsupplysningen OÜ, an Estonian company which mainly does its business in Sweden, commenced legal proceedings against Swedish trade federation Svensk Handel AB, for placing it in a blacklist on its website for dealing in ‘lies and deceit’, garnering over 1000 online comments as a result.

The company requested for the blacklisting and comments to be removed as well as for the trade federation to pay them €56.6 million (£49.8m) in damages.

Bolagsupplysningen wanted an exception to the general rule of taking action in the defendant’s domicile and the court in Estonia, which was asked to apply the EU’s special jurisdiction rule, referred the matter to the CJEU.

In giving his opinion, Bobek felt that the place where the defendant was most affected is likely to be where that person or company also does business.

Advocate general opinions are not binding on the CJEU.