Facebook loses to hairdresser, has to pay 50,000€ fine


In Germany, Facebook lost a case against a hairdresser who didn’t have a Facebook account.


The hairdresser found out through customers that, although he didn’t have a Facebook account and nobody in his family (who worked in the salon) had an account, there was a Facebook page for the salon!

He wrote to Facebook in Hamburg asking them to delete the page. Their reply was that he should log onto Facebook and claim the page for himself. He repeated that he didn’t have an account and didn’t want to create an account, he just wanted the page deleted, end of story. Facebook turned a deaf ear and repeated that the page was his for the taking, he just needed to sign up to Facebook.

Getting nowhere, he filed a case in the court in Hannover. Facebook were informed, but didn’t react. The allotted day came and went and Facebook didn’t turn up. They case was decided without their input and a judgement was made against them, they were ordered to delete the page. The order was duly processed and sent to Facebook.

Facebook then had 2 weeks to file for lodge an appeal. They didn’t. They also didn’t delete the page that they were ordered to.

Around 6 months later, the hairdresser went back to court, Facebook didn’t turn up and Facebook were charged with contempt, ordered to pay 50,000€ plus court costs for both sides.

It was only after the demand for payment arrived at Facebook’s European HQ that movement came into the case. Facebook suddenly came to life, appealed the payment and tried to lodge an appeal for the original case. They tried to get the fine recinded in Hannover, but that was refused. They also tried to appeal to a higher instance in Celle, but they were told that they had waited too long and that there was nothing procedurally wrong with the original judgement.

There are a few more details, but I don’t have online access to the story at the moment and the print version is at home, I’ll try and update with more info later. But I found it funny, in a David and Golliath way.

Comments (13)

13 responses to “Facebook loses to hairdresser, has to pay 50,000€ fine”

  1. Chris_Kez

    Brilliant! I'd like to see the EU take them to task about "shadow profiles", and also force Facebook to disclose all of the information they have about users. Right now Facebook (and Google) will provide you with access to a dashboard or download that shows all the data you have directly shared but not necessarily all of the data they have collected and compiled about you, or the subsequent inferences and predictions they've drawn from all that data. In other words, they'll show you your inputs but I want to see their inputs as well as the outputs. I think that is what people would find shocking.

    • AnOldAmigaUser

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      I have never had a Facebook account, but I would surely like to see the shadow profile they have on me, if only for laughs.

      If one has never given them license to track, I wonder if one could use anti-stalking laws to make them take down these profiles. Obviously some of the information is in the public domain, and all of it is harmless (I hope), but since many people have never chosen to have any relationship with Facebook, it seems odd that they are permitted to profile them.

  2. jimchamplin

    We need to figure out a way to inundate them with these types of cases and choke their legal department. Then when they're dealing with ten thousand papercuts, get someone to hit them with a major charge and demand damages of multiple hundreds of billions of dollars.

    Chapter 11 for Facebook would be like early Christmas.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      While anyone with a Facebook account may be precluded from class action lawsuits due to having agreed to Facebook TOS, presumably people/businesses who've never had Facebook accounts could combine to pursue class actions against Facebook. Good luck finding enough of them to interest any decent plantiff's attorneys.

      Point is, thousands of middling adverse judgments would still total to less than a rounding error on Facebook's financials. What's needed is a no-one's-getting-a-bonus-for-the-next-decade level adverse judgment before you'd get their attention.

  3. minke

    Just the other day we discovered some scammer has created a fake Facebook account that is stealing images from our business account and supposedly giving away stuff of ours that we did not give them. Their address is fake, the photos are not correct, etc. It is a complete scam. We reported it and Facebook said they will not do anything. I believe it is a fake vacation rental scheme designed to lure in deposits from unsuspecting people. We may end up reporting it to the police to see if that can do anything.

  4. Alexander Rothacker

    No money for the hairdresser, though, except his court and lawyer costs. The 50k Euro are a fine and are going to the state.

  5. madthinus

    This story is beautiful in so many ways

  6. wright_is

    A quick update. It seems the Facebook page for the salon was probably created by Facebook itself, as a temptation for the owners.

    Under German law that would be illegal, as it is taking the name of another person or business and misusing it against their will. That is one of the grounds why the court refused the appeal. The original court decision was correct and Facebook waited too long to appeal.

    The whole thing comes down to Facebook's internal structure and them putting the case too far down the priority list, so that it didn't surface until after the judgement was issued.

    It doesn't help that Facebook Germany in Hamburg is only responsible for customers (advertisers) and not for users. Any user complaints or court orders against Facebook have to go to Ireland.

    Facebook tried to argue that the original brief was sent to them in German (well, duh! They broke the law in Germany and were prosecuted by a German court). But that fell down as well, as it was pointed out that the original court decision was supplied to them in English as well as German.

    (As an aside, this is exactly the same excuse Subway uses in reverse, if a foreign franchise owner doesn't fulfill their duties to Subway, they are put before a tribunal in New York and all paperwork is sent in English to the French, German, Italian etc. speaking business owners, who then have to work out they have received or get it translated and they have to go to New York to appear before the tribunal. The translation of legal documents is expensive as is flying to the USA, especially if the "failure of duty" is not paying enough franchise fees, because the business isn't making money. (Source: Arte TV documentary))

  7. hrlngrv

    To which all I can say is that if Germany lacks punitive damages in such circumstances, that's a shame.

    American saying that to get a mule's attention requires giving it a good whack between the eyes with a stout club (a 2-by-4, but I'm trying to be inclusive for users of the metric system). A company like Facebook may take notice of €50,000, but you'd need fines in the US$ 10-figure range to get them to change their practices.

    • wright_is

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      Agreed, but Germany's legal system is not really aimed at multinationals. SMEs build up a majority of the industry in Germany and 50K is a big fine for most businesses or private persons who fail to turn up at court.