High Court in London - no jurisdiction over Glassdoor claim

Last week's High Court decision in the case of BW Legal Services Limited v Glassdoor Inc delivers a double blow for UK businesses wanting to take swift action in relation to defamatory and damaging employee reviews left anonymously on the popular "Glassdoor" review platform.

First, it was held that attempts to proceed locally, in England, via an application to the High Court served on Glassdoor Inc "c/o" London based group company Glassdoor Global Limited, were constituted invalid service and that the application should have been made to Glassdoor's home court in California as per an exclusive jurisdiction clause in Glassdoor's Terms of Use which the applicant had signed up to. (The application was for a Norwich Pharmacal order, that the website reveal the identity of the anonymous reviewer to enable further action).  

For these reasons the High Court declined jurisdiction, despite the clear links to England (UK website etc), leaving the applicants little option but to proceed against Glassdoor in the US rather than UK, or at the very least to have to jump through procedural hoops around jurisdiction/service (including leave to serve out of the jurisdiction) - all adding to the cost and complexity of what should be a straightforward application for information.

Of interest also is the suggestion that even if the case had been able to proceed, it might well have hit a second roadblock, with Mr Justice Jay's comment that he would ‘probably’ have concluded that the applicant had failed the threshold test of "serious financial loss" (a limb of "serious harm" applicable to bodies that trade for profit), noting that ‘prospective employees would understand that [the reviews] were largely based on matters of opinion and perception’.  In today's "review culture" (employee, but think also consumer), this could signal a nail in the coffin for libel claims in relation to reviews, continuing the tendency to prioritise free speech and the recognition of honest opinion and information shared in the public interest, thereby limiting the reach of the libel remedy and requiring from "corporates" a degree of broad shoulders and stoic resilience to criticism. 


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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