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back to article Uber alles.. NOT: Berlin bans taxi ride app over 'safety' fears

Taxi app Uber has been banned in Berlin after the German capital's government said the service violated passenger safety regulations. Officials said in a statement that Uber faces €25,000 fines for each violation of the ban, and drivers using the app will face €20,000 penalties. Uber says it plans to challenge the injunction. …

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Terminator

These have been called "gypsy" cabs in other times.

Effectively - Lyft and Uber have decided to say "Your business model is broken, we're replacing it for you" to "Taxi Companies".

Sadly - the folks at Pirate Bay have been saying that to a couple of corporate entities for years.

Oh hell -- I"m bitter and cynical today aren't I?

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Not really

More rambling and incoherent ;-)

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Germany

Germany is regulated to the n'th degree. Everything has a rule. Having lived in the country for a great many years rules include,

No hanging washing out on a Sunday

Mowing the lawn to be undertaken not after certain times, not on Sundays

No barbecues on balconies

Dogs are not allowed to bark after 9pm (sign on farming village notice board)

No car washing outside your house, only in designated car washes (Kries Holzminden)

Fail the driving test 3 times you will have to attend the 'idiots school'

Winter tyres compulsory on a specific date in October

A fine if you shout at, abuse or stick your fingers up to another motorist

Recycling inspectors look in bins

Weed killer banned

You are responsible for the pavement (snow) outside your house

Every aspect of life has a rule so you know exactly where you stand, not only do the police enforce these rules but your neighbours will willingly tell on you 'Anzeigen' or report you to the authorities. It's in their DNA and psyche.

The Germans will eventually allow the app, but only when they have thoroughly legislated for it.

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Re: Germany

I like your list, a lot (not all) of what's in it seems eminently sensible.

From the outside (i.e. massive generalisations ahead), I think I prefer the way the Germans do it to, say, the way the Americans do it.

In Germany (and Japan, and many other countries) they seem to have a much better understanding of where minor "personal liberties" should be reasonably expected to make way the public good. In the USA every little regulation seems to be seen as a personal violation/communism/both, no matter how insignificant.

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Pirate

Re: These have been called "gypsy" cabs in other times.

Sadly - the folks at Pirate Bay have been saying that to a couple of corporate entities for years.

Looking forward to the "You wouldn't steal a cab" PSA when getting into a taxi ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

"Your business model is broken, we're replacing it for you"

A model which dodges official fee's, taxes and regulations is not really a decent replacement.

Especially when those fees/taxes are going to the government.

Wasn't the Uber app/company placed at some comically high market value??

A business which is promptly being made illegal in many countries??

Bubble much??

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Germany

This reminds me the old joke:

In the UK everything is allowed except what is explicitly prohibited.

In Germany everything is prohibited except what is explicitly allowed.

In Italy everything is allowed even what is prohibited.

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Re: These have been called "gypsy" cabs in other times.

I thought that the Germans were super greenies. Seems like this is a really good application of technology to lesson carbon emissions!

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Re: Germany

Many of those are local by-laws or Hausordnung (house rules).

Hanging washing out on a Sunday - haven't heard that one. You aren't allowed to mow your lawn or use loud tools outside on a Sunday though.

Making noise generally has rules. You are not allowed to use loud machinery (including lawn mowers) during the "Mittagsruhe" (12:00 - 14:00) in a residential area and not after 21:00 in the evening. Rules for mowing the lawn vary from region to region.A friend near Hannover has to mow his lawn at least once a month, where I live there is no such rule.

BBQ on the balcony is generally allowed, but due to the smell and smoke, you are often limited in the house rules as to how often you can grill, so that you don't annoy the neighbours too much. Some flats do ban it, but it isn't a general rule.

Dogs barking - local law, although probably comes under the 21:00 rule above for noise polution. You can't stop a dog barking, but if it is consistent (long periods every day), then you can complain the the Ordnungsamt.

Car washing - not on a Sunday in Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony). That is a state law. The not washing your car at home is for water table polution. Every car wash has to have a Klaranlage (water filtration system) to remove the chemicals etc. from the water before it is allowed into the drains. You don't generally have such a filtration system in your drive...

Failing the driving test 3 times - never heard that one, but then both daughter passed their tests first time and I took my test in the UK in the 80s.

Winter tyres (or all weather tyres) are compulsory when there is snow or ice on the road. It is a recommentdation to change in October. "Oktober bis Ostern" (October to Easter) is the traditional wisdom for winter tyres.

A fine for shouting abuse etc. is generally not allowed - "Nötigung" or causing duress is illegal, although generally unless it becomes violent or threatening it is generally ignored.

Recycling inspectors looking in bins - well, that is their job... :-S

Weed killer ban - sort of. There are certain types that can be used, but again it is for protection of the water table and nature.

Clearing snow - tell me about it, we have an "Eckgrundstück" (corner plot), so I have to not only do the front, but the side of the property, which is a around 150M in total. But you can't use salt any more (water table again), only clear the snow and grit. If you fail to do so, you are legally responsible for any accidents on the pavement in front of your property.

Our neighbours are generally very tollerant, as are we. We complain that they make noise sometimes, among ourselves, but nobody would think of grassing up the neighbours.

I would assume, as long as Uber requires all drivers to get people carrying licences and insurance to cover paying guests and that they use the legislated rates and meters, then they shouldn't have any problems.

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Re: Germany

@Sorry

In fact I have German friends who did exchange years in America, while they were at school, in the 80s and 90s (i.e. before 9/11) and they all say the same thing, the freedoms that they had in Germany were severly curtailed in America...

In Germany it seems to be that your freedoms are set in stone in law and the constitution, i.e. many of the laws declare that you have freedom to do something, not that you can't do something.

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So the taxi business is overregulated. Regulate it less, then. I don't think it's difficult to find unnecessary rules that were added to protect incumbents.

I don't think it's about the business model in itself. Uber and taxi companies have practically the same one; it's just that Uber is less constrained by regulations. For instance, it hardly seems possible or worth it to be a part-time cabby, due to all the rules they have to satisfy.

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Anonymous Coward

...like getting a licence for instance. I just feel a little uncomfortable with Uber's apparently crowd-based vetting process.

"Did not rape me. Five stars. Would use again."

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"So the taxi business is overregulated. Regulate it less, then"

Isn't asking politicians to regulate less a bit like asking bankers to make less profit?

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Uber & Lyft both run background checks as well. It's not that much different that what's needed to get a cabby license in most places. And I can't even count the number of times I've gotten in a cab and the picture of the 'driver' on the licenses looked nothing like the actual driver....

Personally, if I never had to use another cab in my life, it would make me happy. I have zero interest in giving business to people who can't even be bothered to show up as promised or who talk on the phone while driving twice the speed limit....

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In Germany it is probably that they are constrained to the same rules as taxis, but they are not following them - no licences, no insurance, no regular inspections of the vehicles for safety, no regular testing of their meters etc.

In Germany you are not allowed to ply-for-hire if you do not have a "geichte" Meter (tested and approved). This needs to be done annually and inspectors can request a "for hire" vehicle to get its meter tested at random, to ensure that the meter is still accurate.

No meter / non-certified meter, no plying for hire and a big fine.

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Questionable legality here

I'd take the issue to the USTR to take to the WTO if I was Uber.

It's an artificial barrier to competition and an artificial tariff in Services under Modes 3 and 4 of the GATS, unless the EU has Taxi services exempted which I do not believe that they do. However, Uber doesn't have that kind of pull with the United States Trade Representative to do that. I think its bullshit protectionism personally, but it might be legal if there is a specific exemption.

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Re: Questionable legality here

"unless the EU has Taxi services exempted"

Yeah, but Uber and their ilk are very specifically claiming NOT to be a taxi service in an attempt to bypass taxi legislation.

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Re: Questionable legality here

Yep, they are plying for hire, whether that be a designated taxi ranks, hailing, by phone reservation or smartphone app reservation. That means that they have to follow the rules for public hire vehicles - meters, licences, insurance, safety inspections etc.

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Yes, overregulation in the form of restrictions on licenses, not on operation. Here in Vancouver a cab license is worth huge money; drivers make peanuts.

Canada has market restrictions on agriculture, marketing boards for eggs or milk, that create value for market quotas and prevent small operators from selling legally. The intention is good but the unintended consequences are not.

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Anonymous Coward

Ignorant about the matter here

So just a question: is this application/company/service the Web 2.0 version of car pools (for which a number of website have existed for years, and which tends to be promoted by the administration), or is, as mentioned above, a Web 2.0 version of the gypsy cab (the driver wasn't actually intending to go anywhere in particular--he'll just take you there for money)?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ignorant about the matter here

I think rather the second. That I understand, Uber drivers cannot say where they want to go; they have to go where the service tells them.

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Re: Ignorant about the matter here

> they have to go where the service tells them

I believe they choose what jobs they accept, and this gives them control of where they go.

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Re: Ignorant about the matter here

Car-pooling is legal because it's not a "driver for hire" service. The reasons why it's not are that the driver is taking the journey anyway, whether or not he or she has a carpooler with them, and also that the driver is only offering a couple of journeys a day on the service. Payment/reward is usually left as matter between driver and carpooler, with the carpool service taking a "finder's fee".

Uber, on the other hand, functions like a minicab dispatcher. Drivers clock in, and are offered jobs, which they can accept or reject. The drivers then collect and deliver the passengers who booked them. There is no pre-existing journey that the driver is offering to passengers, and the drivers will provide many trips a day, as long as there's demand. Payment rates are determined by the Uber system, and advertised to the potential riders. Uber gets a fixed amount for every job it successfully dispatches to a driver, just like minicab drivers have to pay their dispatcher for each job they get.

If you apply the "duck-typing" approach: Uber is advertised like a taxi service, is summoned like a taxi service, and is paid for like a taxi service by both driver and passenger. Therefore, for all useful and legal purposes, Uber is a taxi service...

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"Authorities are finding that existing taxi regulations don't allow them to manage the car-ride booking app"

Meanwhile in civilisation (ie, outside London) where we have our own taxi licensing laws, electronic pre-booking has been able to fit into the taxi licensing regime for years'n'years. It's just a logical extension of telephone booking, and almost all the taxi companies in my town have electronic booking facilities.

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Anonymous Coward

> Meanwhile in civilisation (ie, outside London)

For "outside London" values of "not Paris", or course.

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Devil

Rent Seekers

What a surprise that Cabbies and "licencing authorities" aka "Government" don't like anything that busts the current scheme.

Rent seekers all, desperate to protect their incomes by restricting customer choice; and no better than the medieval guilds.

(PS: no "parasite" icon, so have a "spawn of Satan")

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Re: Rent Seekers

If I were a taxi driver, owing hundreds of thousands of dollars for my taxi licence (or paying most of my earnings to a licence/vehicle owner), competing against people who paid nothing for the same privilege, I'd be pretty upset too.

But markets change, while incumbents resist in vain. It was ever thus.

The idea that ridesharing services allows users to give feedback on drivers (and, presumably, vice versa?) appeals to me. Traditional taxi services are a bit of a joke by comparison.

Anyway, bring on the fleets of self-driving cars for hire.

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Re: Rent Seekers

As a former taxi license board member, I can tell you what we repeatedly told the taxi trade, the regulation system is NOT there to preserve the taxi business, it is there to protect the travelling public, and if that means destroying somebody's business in order to preserve public safety, so be it.

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Re: Rent Seekers

In what way does the regulation protect the public? How about this: all Uber drivers undergo the standard CRB background check (or local equivalent), the vehicles are inspected the same way as taxis, and then we are good. If I remember, Uber already does CRB checks on its drivers, and are taxi MOTs different to normal MOTs? If so, Uber requires their drivers to do that too. Any more public safety measures?

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Re: Rent Seekers

How many of these hundreds of thousands of dollars went into the public purse?

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Re: Rent Seekers

How many of there hundreds of thousands of $s went into the public purse?

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Re: Rent Seekers

What percent of these "hundreds of thousands of dollars" went into the public purse?

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Re: Rent Seekers

The issue - at least in the US - is with the UberX part of their business. As far as I understand it, Uber drivers are licensed as hire cars and have the appropriate licensing and insurance. Lyft and UberX are just regular people in their own (newish) cars. As they are working for hire, they are in breach of their own car insurance rules (NOT covered by Uber or Lyft's liability coverage, which also seems very slippery) and, depending on the state, in breach of driver licensing rules.

In most cities in the world, cabs are notoriously bad and there has been little incentive to change that. An app like this is a good idea, but just deciding to ignore the law and pay fines for they drivers while doing so is a horrible way to run a business. I agree with the first poster who said that this is very much akin to Pirate Bay "disrupting" the copyright business.

So, yes, there are public safety issues, in that almost all UberX and Lyft drivers are driving without insurance and in many cases without the correct license endorsements.

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Uber banned in Berlin

Update: Fines up to 25K EUR in Berlin against the driver or provider - detentions are also possible.

To make a conclution - we are open for competiton and only want to compete on the same level,

under faire competition. Thats why, this was the right decision from the Berlin senate and hopefully, they make the last step and ban it finally.

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Re: Uber banned in Berlin

Berlin spends half its money promoting the city as the startup capital of europe.

And then warn that next year they might kick in your door if they decide that your blogging app qualifies you as a broadcaster and there is a 250K Eur fine for being an unlicensed TV network.

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Re: Uber banned in Berlin

Is that Berlin the city vs Berlin the seat of national government?

Awkward situation to be in.

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Anonymous Coward

Cabs eh?

I make a point of never using them.

Catching regular taxis is a most unpleasant experience.

I always opt for private charter operators or, at worst, certain shuttle bus companies.

Clean cars

Well presented employees

Professional service

Reliable times and vehicle types

Fixed, if not higher, rates

Sometimes even a non alcoholic cool drink upon boarding!

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Don't care, don't use them. I drive, walk,cycle or take a train if I really have to.

But this does sound a lot like protectionism. I bet at some stage horse drawn cabs tried to fend off the motor cabs......

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dublin

Here in Dublin Hailo and the like work well with existing taxi licence owners. Ireland deregulated taxi licencing to the point that anyone can take the test and sign up to drive them.

I do agree though to an extent with the Berlin rules in that I do not think taxi driving should be a complete free for all. There is a risk for people just jumping on board without proper insurance and with a possibly unsafe car.

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It suprises me that nobody has picked up on insurance issues - since your insurance is almost certainly void if you carry a passenger for a financial reward, surely that means that anybody carrying people using this app are driving without insurance?

Or am I misunderstanding how this app works?

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Uber's rules around the matter vary by territory, but in Britain they must have the relevant insurance which in effect means they have to have private hire insurance.

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Come gather round people, wherever you roam....

History is littered with people who dont want change, who dont want progress. People who want to protect their racket, and keep their closed shop, shut. These people are scared of information above all else. They like to keep secrets, and only those who are in the club can know them. It doesn't normally work out. You cant hold back the tide.

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