A TV ad for the latest edition of a German business news magazine trailed a story about a German bank to appear in it
Who: A leading Ge Who: A leading German business news magazine and a German private bank
When: March 2000
Where: Press Chamber of the Hamburg District Court
A TV ad for the latest edition of a German business news magazine trailed a story about a German bank to appear in it. The ad questioned the reliability of the bank’s then chairman and used the phrase "Many people might lose their money." The cover of the relevant magazine issue carried the headline "Hamburg Private Bank in trouble: customers fear for their money."
Following this, so many customers of the bank withdrew their deposits that the bank was forced to close down. In the ensuing defamation proceedings, the advertiser was unable to produce any convincing evidence to support its assertions about the bank’s condition. The Court found for the bank and is now assessing the proper level of damages. Why this matters: Advertising for news media can all too easily repeat highly damaging allegations about businesses when sensationalising content to attract readers. Although harmonisation of EU defamation laws has perhaps strangely not yet featured on the Brussels agenda, it is likely that Germany, like the UK, has no "public domain" defence to libel proceedings. Checks should always be run, therefore, before publishing any advertising containing references to editorial material which makes robust assertions about individuals or businesses.