Company awarded internet libel damages

£50,000 compensation for extensive attacks in web forum

A UK distance learning company which provides training courses in computer games development, bookkeeping, plumbing and other skills has been awarded £50,000 by the High Court, in an assessment of libel damages for a large number of separate allegations published in two discussion forum threads on an industry website.

Metropolitan International Schools, which trades in the UK as SkillsTrain and Train2Game brought claims against the web forum publisher, DesignTechnica, over two extremely extensive forum discussion threads running to hundreds of webpages. A multitude of damaging allegations had been made by internet posters anonymously which were damaging to trade, including allegations of improper credit checking procedures, cavalier sales techniques, infringement of copyright and fraud. Metropolitan International Schools chose not to rely on the presumption of falsity in its favour but adduced evidence to contradict the online allegations, including evidence that their credit services were carried out by reputable UK businesses such as Barclays and Experian.

Mr Justice Tugendant accepted that the claimant was entitled to compensation for damage to reputation sustained in the principal jurisdiction where it sells education courses and advertises, and that prospective students research courses using the internet. Although the website was hosted abroad it was evident that contributors to the forums were UK-based. The publisher had been notified of the complaints and all stages of the litigation but had chosen not to take part. £50,000 is the largest recent award to a corporate claimant.

5RB’s David Hirst instructed by Eversheds represented Metropolitan International Schools Ltd.