Case law

Documents instituting proceedings do not have to be translated in English if the defendant is Facebook

By a ruling of 14 October 2019, the Munich Court of Appeal decided that an application for temporary relief against Facebook does not have to be translated into English for the purposes of Articles 5 and 8 of the Service Regulation.

A dispute had arisen between a Facebook user living in Germany and the social network giant. The former requested Facebook to delete a seemingly defamatory comment from another user’s Facebook page.

The application followed the ordinary transmission path provided for by German rules (§ 1069 of the German Code of Civil Procedure). An attempt to serve the document was made in Ireland, at the seat of the defendant. The latter, however, refused acceptance on the grounds of Article 8 the Service Regulation.

This provides that the addressee may refuse to accept a document “if it is not written in, or accompanied by a translation into, either of the following languages: (a) a language which the addressee understands; or (b) the official language of the Member State addressed”.

The first instance court of Kempten decided to stay proceedings, given that no service had taken place. It therefore ordered the applicant to serve afresh, this time with a translation in English, for which he should deposit a sum of 700 Euros in advance, which is standard procedure for similar cases in Germany. The applicant contested the order by filing an “immediate” appeal (sofortige Beschwerde).

The Munich Court of Appeal granted the appeal and decided that service was in accordance with the Regulation. It found that the conditions for non-acceptance were not met in the circumstances, for the addressee could understand the document although it was written in German.

The Court relied for this finding on a range of circumstances, including the magnitude of the addressee; its multinational reach; the extensive use of its platform in Germany; the use of the German language by the addressee in ordinary business affairs, as evidenced by the German Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), which obliges foreign companies conducting business in Germany to recruit German-speaking personnel.

This is not the first ruling addressing the matter in Germany. A similar judgment was issued on 8 March 2017 years ago by the District Court of Berlin-Mitte, reported in English by Peter Bert in his blog.