The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), in its judgment of December 21 2021, in case C-251/20, ruled on the interpretation of Article 7(2) of EU Regulation No. 1215/2012 on jurisdiction for compensation for damage caused by online disparagement.
Specifically, the appellant, who charged the other party with the dissemination of disparaging comments on various websites, had instituted proceedings before the French courts, requesting: i) the removal of such comments ii); the rectification of the published data; and iii) compensation for the damage suffered as a result of the dissemination of such statements. However, both in first instance and in appeal, the judges had declared their lack of jurisdiction to hear such requests. The French Court of Cassation, referred to by the appellant, considered that the centre of the appellant’s interests was established in the Czech Republic and noting that the respondent was domiciled in Hungary, had in turn considered that the French courts lacked jurisdiction to hear the claim for the removal of the disparaging comments and correction of the published data. However, it decided to ask the CJEU whether the French courts had jurisdiction to hear the claim for damages.
In the judgment commented upon here, the CJEU, in line with previous case law, recalls that Article 7 (2) Reg. No. 1215/2012, which establishes the jurisdiction of the courts “of the place where the harmful event occurred or may occur”, refers both to the place of the event giving rise to the damage and to the place where the damage materialized. In this sense, the person who considers himself damaged by disparaging content will be able to bring an action for compensation, for the entire damage caused: i) before the courts of the Member State in which his centre of interests is located; or ii) before the courts of the Member State where the person who published the content is established. Alternatively, it may also act before the courts of each Member State in whose territory the content is accessible, but in that case the courts will have jurisdiction to hear only the partial damage caused in the relevant territory.
In reaching this conclusion, the CJEU points out that the application for the rectification and removal of data and content placed online on an Internet site, given the ubiquity and universal scope of their dissemination, is one and indivisible and therefore can only be brought before the court with jurisdiction to hear the entire claim for damages. The claim for damages, on the other hand, is not single and indivisible, since it can have as its object both full and partial compensation; for this reason it can be brought before any judge in whose territorial area the claimant considers to have suffered damage.
The CJEU also states that the claim for rectification and removal of data and the claim for damages do not have “a necessary link of dependence” between them, since their object, their basis and their ability to be divided are different. For these reasons, there is no need for them to be examined jointly by a single judge. Nor is such a prerequisite necessary in light of the proper administration of justice, since the court having jurisdiction to hear only the damage suffered in the Member State, to which it belongs, is fully capable of assessing the occurrence and extent of the damage complained of.