Uber faces ban across Germany

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BERLIN: Uber Technologies Inc, maker of the ride-hailing application that’s being challenged by cab drivers around the globe, faces a Germany-wide ban, after a taxi organisation won an emergency court ruling in Frankfurt.

Uber drivers don’t have the necessary permits to carry passengers under German law, the court said in the ruling dated Aug 25, citing evidence provided by Taxi Deutschland Service Gesellschaft fuer Taxizentralen eG. The case is one of at least four legal actions against the company in the country.

Governments and regulators in cities around the world are restricting Uber’s business, on the grounds that it poses safety risks and unfairly competes with licensed taxi services. The company is also fighting bans issued by the German cities of Hamburg and Berlin.

San Francisco-based Uber can ask for a full hearing and seek to have the order overturned.

While the decision was issued under a fast-track procedure, the judges reviewed arguments submitted by Uber.

Under the ruling, Taxi Deutschland can ask the court to impose a payment of as much as €250,000 (RM1.04 million), for each time Uber violates the ban.

Herwig Kollar, the lawyer for Taxi Deutschland, said his client must decide whether it will enforce the ruling.

“But from all I hear, I think my client is willing to take that step,” he said.

If a private party enforces a preliminary court order in Germany, it may have to pay damages if the other side later overturns the ruling in court. A similar ruling won by a cab driver in Berlin earlier this year, wasn’t enforced because of the risk.

So far, no German ban has been enforced against Uber, and the service is still operating in the country.

Hamburg traffic authorities told Uber in July to stop operating in the port city, saying that transporting people without a licence is against the law. The city’s administrative court in August, ruled that the wrong city agency issued the ban and Hamburg can’t enforce the restriction while it reviews a challenge filed by the company.

Berlin issued a ruling, blocking the service in August, and a case over its enforcement is pending at an administrative court in the German capital. The cities of Munich and Dusseldorf are also considering bans. The city authorities say that the service is illegal, because the drivers offering rides via Uber’s smartphone app need a cabbie licence and aren’t properly insured. — Bloomberg

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on Sept 03, 2014.