Bad news for any fans of hyper-convenient, politically problematic transportation apps in the nation of Germany Wednesday. After a long court battle, the taxi union Taxi Deutschland has finally prevailed in its lawsuit against Uber. According to Reuters, a Frankfurt-based three-judge panel ruled on the side of the taxi union, meaning that as of now, Uber is banned in Germany, a fact which must be hard to accept given the company's moniker (uber means "over" or "above" in German).
Uber is reportedly expected to appeal the court's decision, which actually doesn't kill all of the company's services within Germany, just UberPOP. UberPOP has been the subject of a ton of gnashing teeth and legal challenges in major cities and countries across Europe, for a pretty easily foreseen reason: it doesn't use licensed professional drivers, while services like UberBLACK and UberTAXI do.
That fact was central to the German ruling, or at least it looks that way — Taxi Deutschland argued that UberPOP's use of unlicensed drivers represented an overt violation of the country's laws. And after Wednesday's promising ruling, they entered a miniature victory lap, as detailed by CNN Money.
We are pleased to say that justice has been reinstated today. Again, a court determined [that] Uber based its business model on a breach of law.
It's not altogether surprising to read about a major city taking exception to Uber's presence, though having your activity suspended in an entire country is quite another matter. The company has something of a history of launching in places that aren't very keen about it — Uber got embroiled in an ongoing conflict with the city of Portland, for example, which resulted in them halting operations for a few months so that city officials could work out a regulatory framework. Things got pretty acrimonious in December, when City Commissioner Steve Novick said Uber was acting "like a bunch of thugs."
As far as Germany is concerned, Uber maintains their services are legal and should be up and running (no surprise there), and it's reportedly expected to appeal the ruling. Its legal argument, which is foundational to their operations in many places, is that they aren't actually a taxi company, but rather just an app that connects drivers and passengers for an informal ride-share. Admittedly, I don't know of many other informal ride-shares that conclude with drivers rating their passengers for future reference, but maybe I'm out of the loop.
In any event, UberPOP is now off-limits in Germany, and will continue to be so unless the company mounts a better effort in court than they apparently did this time around. As Reuters notes, its claim to merely be a facilitator for drivers and passengers to link up didn't go over great with at least one of the three judges, Uwe Eilers, whose reply must have stung: "In that case, you should include in your business description that Uber offers rides for free."
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