German court bans Uber's unlicensed taxi services

Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:33pm EDT
 
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By Eric Auchard and Christoph Steitz

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A German court on Wednesday banned Uber from running services using unlicensed cab drivers and set stiff fines for any violations of local transport laws by the pioneering online taxi firm.

    Uber, worth an estimated $40 billion making it the world's most valuable venture-backed start-up, has set out to revolutionise local transport services worldwide, from taxis to carpools to fast-food delivery.

Born out of the frustration of two Silicon Valley entreprenuers trying to catch a cab in Paris, Uber's popular mobile phone taxi-hailing services have mushroomed since being launched in 2010 and are offered in nearly 270 cities worldwide.

But Uber also has become a magnet for criticism of its business style of moving first and asking permission later. It has faced complaints around the world over how it pays drivers, charges passengers and ensures their safety.

The latest case, brought in the Frankfurt regional court by German taxi operator group Taxi Deutschland against UberPOP, is one of more than a dozen lawsuits filed in countries across Europe in recent months against the San Francisco-based company.

Dieter Schlenker, chairman of the Taxi Deutschland cooperative, said the ruling would protect taxi drivers from competition from unlicensed part-time drivers used by Uber. His taxi group is part of an association dating back to 1919.

UberPOP, an online service that links private drivers with passengers via their mobile phones, is the target of most suits.

"What does is mean for the 255,000 taxi drivers and employees in 700 radio taxi control centres? It means legal certainty, 255,000 real jobs and taxpayers will remain in Germany," Schlenker said following the ruling.   Continued...

 
An illustration picture shows the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign in Frankfurt, September 15, 2014.  REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach