Service of a claim in German on Facebook/Ireland effective

In a default judgment delivered on 8 March 2017, the Berlin-Mitte Local Court ruled that service of a statement of claim in German on Facebook Ireland Ltd, which is domiciled in Ireland, was effective because a translation into English, the official language there, was not required.

A user of Facebook brought an action against that company with the aim of obliging it to grant him unrestricted access to his account again and in particular to all his communication content and to the functions of the internet platform "". At the same time, the plaintiff demands payment of pre-court legal costs of EUR 382.59.

The plaintiff had set up an account in 2008, access to which was allegedly revoked by the defendant company on 3 July 2016. The plaintiff tried in vain to have the blocking reversed by email. The defendant refused to do so by email of 6 July 2016, as it had come to the conclusion that he was "not authorised to use Facebook". It referred to its "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities" published on the internet and added that unfortunately it could not provide any additional information on the blocking "for security reasons".

As the involvement of a lawyer was also unsuccessful, the user filed a lawsuit and submitted the statement of claim together with the annexes in German. These documents were served at the defendant's registered office in Ireland without the statement of claim and the annexes having been translated into English beforehand.

According to the European Regulation on the service of documents, the addressee may refuse to accept the document to be served if it is not written in the official language of the Member State addressed or in a language which the addressee understands or if it is not accompanied by an appropriate translation.

The defendant company has pleaded that the relevant legal department does not understand the language and has so far not defended itself against the action, since in its - the defendant's - view the action was not validly served.

At the plaintiff's request, the Local Court Mitte issued a default judgment in the written preliminary proceedings and sentenced the defendant according to the claim. In its reasoning, the Local Court stated that the service had been effective. It was to be assumed that the defendant understood German sufficiently. It was not the members of the management who were to be taken into account. Rather, the overall circumstances, taking into account the organisational structure, were decisive. Not least in view of the 20 million customers of the defendant in Germany, it could be assumed that employees were employed who were able to deal with legal disputes with customers in German. Accordingly, the plaintiff's complaint had also been answered in German.

According to the plaintiff's submissions, the defendant was also obliged to grant him access to the communication portal it operated again.

The defendant has three weeks from the date of service to lodge an objection against the default judgment. The objection period is expected to expire towards the end of April 2017. If the objection is admissible, the legal dispute will be continued.

Amtsgericht Mitte, file number 15 C 364/16, default judgment of 8 March 2017


Press release of the President of the Berlin Court of Appeal, Elßholzstraße 30-33, 10781 Berlin of 11.04.2017


Goldberg Attorneys at Law 2017

Attorney at Law Michael Ullrich, LL.M. (Information Law)

Specialist lawyer for information technology law