No rating without a name?

 Employers can have anonymous negative reviews on Kununu deleted.

No rating without a name?

Employers often want anonymous negative reviews on review portals such as Kununu deleted. The Hanseatic Higher Regional Court (OLG) recently ruled that this is possible (Hanseatic Higher Regional Court of Hamburg, decision dated February 9, 2024, Ref: 7 W 11/24).

The Kununu review platform

Kununu is a review platform which enables (former) employees to rate a company as an employer. The ratings are publicly visible and can be submitted anonymously.

While positive ratings do not pose a problem, negative reviews do. After all, reviews like these can do enormous damage to the employer’s reputation.

Do employers have the right to demand that the platform has to delete anonymous negative reviews?

Employer defends itself against anonymous negative reviews

One such case was recently brought before the Hamburg District Court (LG) and the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court.

An employer initially complained to Kununu about a number of reviews on the platform: The company had doubts as to whether the reviews had actually been submitted by (former) employees.

Kununu examined the complaints internally and requested evidence from the reviewers. It came to the conclusion that the people submitting the reviews had been employed by the company and also sent anonymized employment records to the employer.

However, this was not enough for the employer. The company demanded the deletion of the reviews by way of a court injunction before the District Court Hamburg, but was unsuccessful. The District Court regarded the anonymized proof of employment at the company reviewed as sufficient to verify the authenticity of the ratings.

Higher Regional Court: Deletion possible if only anonymized proof of employment submitted

However, the company’s appeal against the decision succeeded: The court decided that the right to injunctive relief or deletion of the review exists as long as the person submitting the review cannot be adequately identified by the employer concerned.

The claim for injunctive relief against the platform for violation of the company’s privacy and publicity rights always exists if the respective employer only receives anonymized proof of employment. The purely internal review by the platform to determine whether the person reviewing the company was actually employed there is not sufficient.

Employers must be able to verify whether the negative review actually originated from a (former) employee. Therefore, Kununu should have sent evidence to the employer which would have allowed the employer to determine who had publicly expressed the criticism.

Moreover, the court also stated that data protection is also not a justified argument in this case given that the purpose of data protection is not to enable the distribution of anonymous reviews.

What does this ruling mean for employers?

For the first time, the court clarified that, in the case of the review platform Kununu, employers are entitled to demand the deletion of anonymous negative reviews. However, the prerequisite is that the platform fails to disclose exactly who submitted the review in response to a complaint from the affected employer and the employer cannot identify the reviewer by any other means.

Objection to the ruling

It is important to note that the ruling by the Higher Regional Court is not yet final: Kununu has announced that it disagrees with the decision and intends to have the decision reviewed by principal proceedings. Consequently, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) may yet have to address this issue.

What can we do for you?

Do you have questions about your right to have reviews on review platforms such as Kununu deleted? Do not hesitate to contact us!

Summary of the key facts:

  • Anonymous negative reviews on platforms such as Kununu can often pose a problem for employers.
  • At the beginning of February 2024, the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court ruled the companies may be entitled to have such reviews deleted.
  • The decision was made in preliminary injunction proceedings. The Federal Court of Justice may yet decide on this case as part of the principal proceedings.