Car sharing service Uber banned in Germany
Germany - The Guardian

Car sharing service Uber banned in Germany

Uber could face €250,000 fine per ride after Taxi Deutschland sues app-makers for violating transport laws.

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The online car-sharing service Uber has vowed to continue operating across Germany after its mobile app was banned by a Frankfurt regional court.

The ruling that the app violates the country’s Passenger Transportation Act applies nationwide, according to legal experts. The temporary ban remains in place until a full hearing takes place, and Uber could face a €250,000 (£198,000) fine per ride.

But Uber vowed to keep the app online regardless. “You cannot put the brakes on progress,” the company said. “Uber will continue its operations and will offer Uberpop ride-sharing services via its app throughout Germany.” It promised to appeal against the decision and would, if necessary, “exhaust all the legal possibilities”.

The case against Uber was brought by the Taxi Deutschland Servicegesellschaft company, which offers a rival app that links users to registered taxi drivers. The company argued that Uber was not operating a legitimate service because its drivers did not have the correct permits, were not properly insured, and were not subject to checks. German law allows drivers without a commercial licence to pick up passengers only if they charge no more than the operating cost of the trip.

“We are very happy with the decision,” TDS spokeswoman Anja Floetenmeyer said. “The law says there are safety regulations for drivers and safety regulations for users, and these also apply to neo-liberal firms like Uber.”

Describing the sharing economy as a “locust”, TDS chairman Dieter Schlenker said: “Uber operates with billions in cash from Goldman Sachs and Google, wraps itself in a start-up look and sells itself as a new economy saviour.”

Floetenmeyer said that since Uber was choosing to ignore the ban, TDS would now formally ask the court to enforce the relevant fines. “If you get into a car, you are legally in the hands of the driver with your life and your personal health and safety,” she said. “And the driver has to play by the German rules.”

Floetenmeyer also warned that the next step would be to impose additional fines on drivers using the Uber app. The five-year-old San Francisco-based company, recently valued at $18bn (£10.9bn), has faced determined opposition from taxi operators in cities across the world, with thousands of drivers in June bringing traffic almost to a standstill in London, Paris and Madrid, among other places.

The latest court decision further raises the stakes for Uber in Germany, where it has had to fend off legal challenges for months in Berlin and Hamburg on issues ranging from licensing to whether its drivers are fully insured to carry passengers.

Uber has pursued an aggressive business strategy in the country, expanding rapidly and defying a number of attempts by local authorities to ban it. The app is available in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf, and Uber intends to expand into at least six other German cities.

Authorities in Berlin and Hamburg tried to ban the app earlier this year, citing a lack of proper permits and insurance, but in both cases local administrative courts suspended the bans, pending procedural decisions and further hearings.

Uber says Germany represents one of the company’s most fertile markets, with registrations having quintupled since the start of the year.

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