back to article Uber alles... nein! Germany imposes nationwide ban on taxi app

Uber has been banned in Germany after a court in Frankfurt imposed a temporary injunction on the driving firm. Taxi Deutschland, a co-operative taxi industry group in the country, took Uber to court in Frankfurt claiming that the company is in violation of Germany’s passenger transport laws. According to a statement from the …

Umlaut.

They really should not have forgotten the umlaut in "Über".

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Headmaster

Re: Umlaut.

Yep, Germans are sticklers for grammar. If you spell it wrong, you can't do business here! :-P

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FAIL

EU law proportionality test

Free movement of services TFEU Article 56 http://euwiki.org/TFEU#Article_56 (Uber is based in NL), this is a classic case where the restriction on trade has no legitimate object permitted by the treaties (or by the Luxembourg court's jurisprudence). It claims to be for the defence of the consumer (which is a permitted object), however, we know that these restrictions on Uber are for the defence of the provider, i.e. existing taxi drivers!

Nor is it a proportionate measure rationally connected with any such acceptable object, nor is it the least restrictive option in obtaining such an object.

So expect the CJEU to urinate noisily all over the German law in question.

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Re: EU law proportionality test

"So expect the CJEU to urinate noisily all over the German law in question."

I doubt it. As Germany is the only solvent economy in the EU I very much doubt that the EU are going to try throwing their weight around. As it is the Eurocrats have to persuade the Germans to either pay off the debts of Southern Europe and France, or to accept a tsunami of inflation to water down those states debt. Far from seeing the netizens rise up with their pitchforks, the only people who are perhaps willing to die in a ditch over some poorly regulated hire car app are the unlucky users who get in a car driven by an inept clown.

And judging by my experience of German taxis, the cars are usually new, high end cars, well driven. I'd prefer to pay taxi prices for that, than sit in some potentially uninsured rustbucket driven by somebody with no regulation whatsoever.

Back here in the UK things are admittedly different, because the regulated taxis are (in my home town) crummy, low end rustbuckets driven by the clueless. So taking pot luck with Uber can only be worse if the Uber driver turns out to be a homicidal psychopath.

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Re: EU law proportionality test

Sorry, but no.

The law is there to protect the consumer and the driver. That means that everybody who wants to be a taxi driver (and that includes the, as described in the original article, "hobby"-Taxi drivers working for Uber) has to get a licence.

If Uber made their drivers get a licence / only used drivers with a licence, as well as ensuring the meters in the cars are properly calibrated, made sure the drivers have commercial transport insurance and that the cars have been approved by the local TÜV (equivalent of an MOT station) for the carrying of paying guests etc. then there wouldn't be a problem.

The law also states that Uber must pay them a fixed wage and they must pay health insurance for their drivers as well.

Schlenker makes the point, as did I last week in another article here, it is irrelevant, whether the journey is initiated by a smartphone app, a telephone call, picking up a ride at a taxi stand or hailing a taxi, they are all the same thing, plying for hire, which is covered by the law. His argument is, that you can't just wrap up a taxi journey in a "new fangled" App and say it isn't passenger transport from A to B and that the law no longer applies.

Further, "he who steps into a strange car must trust the driver with his health and life. No driver can check driver, company and vehicle. Therefore the law makers only allow this business model under strict conditions. An Internet rating should replace a thorough check by the authorities?"

Additionally the background check, resulting in a certificate of conduct, from the authorities goes far deeper that the private check from Uber. Additionally legally licenced drivers must undergo a thorough medical examination, before they receive their licence.

Those caught driving for the likes of Uber will also find that their car insurance will be revoked by their insurance company (and in Germany that means that the registration plates on the car will also be revoked / removed), as happened in Hamburg recently. In the event of an accident, the driver is not insured and the passenger will have to sue the driver for compensation. (Schlenker said, "Uber takes it as read, that the passenger will receive nothing.")

On the other hand, car sharing schemes have benn big here for over a decade. There are several that match drivers and travellers who are following the same route and pair them up, but the driver must have already registered that he is driving a route at a set time and the passenger will pay towards fuel for the journey - the driver cannot make any profit. Likewise hire companies operate a system where the driver can pick up a car that needs to get returned to another depot and they have a set time to get there, as long as they can get there on time, they get the car for free - and can make minor detours from the prescribed route.

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Re: EU law proportionality test @ Ledswinger

This isn't a political question, it's a legal question solely concerning economic rights - no fundamental rights, no human rights, no free association or speech, no protection of consumers, no special strategic rationale for resource security, no special cultural protection rationales, no public health, nothing like that.

It's just old economy vs new economy. And the entire history of the caselaw affirms that where only economic rights are concerned then the Treaties apply.

Germany knows the jurisprudence on free movement of services, this is pretty standard stuff. They banned Cassis de Dijon liquer in 61 I think because "it wasn't strong enough for the German drinker..." And that was overturned in a trice by the CJEU, it's par for the course.

Truly, any EU lawyer is very familiar with the silly justifications for local protectionism which member states put forward on political grounds.

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Re: EU law proportionality test

"Sorry, but no.

The law is there to protect the consumer and the driver. "

Well, no, the protection of producers' positions is not the objective of EU law. It is the creation of an efficient market which protects consumers, and through efficiency allocates resources best (thus increasing prosperity and raising the living standards of workers, supposedly). It tends to look down on producer-welfarism.

The minimum wage issue you mention is quite interesting in EU law terms - whether local sectoral minimum wage requirements (including a sectoral or guild-based requirement to pay for health insurance) trump freedom to provide services. Seems to me a question of fact as to the Luxembourg position. I instinctively think customer benefit should trump protectionism here - but my rationale is weak, because on the other hand you have fixed-price guilds for German legal work, and that system works very well indeed.

Whether an outright ban of Uber is the least restrictive option in fulfilling those of the objectives you mention which are legitimate under the Treaties, I very much doubt. I don't see why Uber can't increase its driver checks and require health checks.

As for liability insurance, that issue arises solely from the possibly illegitimate ban by the regional court just now - obviously Uber drivers wouldn't be permitted by Uber to drive without being fully insured.

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Re: EU law proportionality test

not minimum wage, but according to the law, they should get a fixed rate - that is up to Uber, the drivers and the unions to agree upon. Paying the driver's health insurance is, again, a legal requirement.

Nobody seems to be saying that Uber should be permanently banned, after all, it is just another taxi company. What is being said, is that there is a legal way of doing things and an illegal way of doing things, and Uber seems to be taking the illegal way and putting their drivers and their customers at risk. If Uber ensure that their drivers apply for and get a licence before they hit the streets, and thus they can get their vehicles insured, then there won't be any problems.

It is Uber's attitude that they are above the law and that it is irrelevant, whether their customers are covered in the event of an accident, that grates. It has nothing to do with fixed price guilds, it has to do with following the law.

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Anonymous Coward

The buggy whip makers will go down fighting to the end or should I say the taxi cartels are feeling the heat.

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Anonymous Coward

You mean the government bodies are feeling the heat??

The Taxi drivers are hacked off, but rightly so.

You have to lay down a fair chunk of change to get the necessary credentials to be a Taxi driver, then negotiate any number of annoying by-laws and deal with red-tape.

You'd be annoyed if someone came along with a better booking system and cheaper fares because they side-stepped all the costs involved with dealing with the government.

Not saying the Taxi system doesn't need a good shake-up, but when the other guy isn't paying his way like you do it's kinda unfair.

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Re: You mean the government bodies are feeling the heat??

You'd be annoyed if someone came along with a better booking system and cheaper fares because they side-stepped all the costs involved with dealing with the government.

UK farmers felt thus, until the inevitable horsemeat happens to turn people back to the expensive but regulated option

which in uber's case is just going to be the inevitable sexual assault

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Big Brother

Re: You mean the government bodies are feeling the heat??

Not saying the Taxi system doesn't need a good shake-up, but when the other guy isn't paying his way like you do it's kinda unfair.

The uptake of the slogan "everyone must pay the protection money equally" is the sign that the monkeys are now in the "well trained" mindframe.

No-one will ever touch the banana ever again.

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Re: You mean the government bodies are feeling the heat??

"which in uber's case is just going to be the inevitable sexual assault"

Apart from it's not like the regulated taxi drivers have never been involved in assault or worse.

At least here in the UK there have been many cases of taxi drivers getting up to no good. The current child abuse investigations in Rotherham have reported taxi drivers being heavily involved, both grooming the kids and driving them to the other abusers.

In short I can't see the "think of the children" defense holding any water.

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Re: You mean the government bodies are feeling the heat??

You'd be annoyed if someone came along with a better booking system and cheaper fares because they side-stepped all the costs involved with dealing with the government.

I see your point about the fares, but what on earth does a better booking system have to do with side-stepping dealing with the government?

If local taxi firms provided a decent app/website showing customers where their taxi actually is (although granted it would probably default to "just around the corner") and allowed them to pay easily using that app/site they'd have 90% of what makes Uber good, I think.

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"The buggy whip makers will go down fighting to the end or should I say the taxi cartels are feeling the heat."

The taxi "cartels" are a licenced and regulated industry whose drivers are required to undergo criminal background checks, the knowledge to drive to locations, and who drive vehicles which are safe and up to spec to public transport regulations.

Whereas Uber is none of those things. You could be picked up by a convicted rapist in an ininsured car for all you know. I doubt Uber or its rating system would give you the slightest clue either. That's the fundamental issue here.

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Re: You mean the government bodies are feeling the heat??

"Apart from it's not like the regulated taxi drivers have never been involved in assault or worse."

Exactly. Even when drivers are vetted a few rotten apples slip through. Now imagine no vetting process at all. Is that a better situation or a worse situation?

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Re: You mean the government bodies are feeling the heat??

DrXym - understand your point but I believe people have a very unrealistic view of what vetting means.

If I pass a vetting process is doesn't mean that I am "safe", it simply means that I have never been caught. Very different thing.

For example, I flag down a black cab on the street, I am essentially taking it on trust that the driver is honest and will not bury my body in the woods etc.

However if I book via a system like these (and Hailo) there is a clear record of me booking a ride, where I was going and who the driver was. Doesn't stop the body in the woods thing but seems a bigger safety net than point in time vetting.

Just my 2p

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You could be picked up by a convicted rapist in an ininsured car for all you know.

Given that you can only get personal transport insurance (i.e. to carry paying passengers) if you have a taxi licence and your insurance company will revoke your insurance on the spot and refuse to pay out in the event of an accident in Germany, then the second part of that statement is true.

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Re: You mean the government bodies are feeling the heat??

"If I pass a vetting process it doesn't mean that I am "safe", it simply means that I have never been caught. Very different thing."

Sometimes it doesn't even mean that:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-29002397

"A mayor who resigned after a taxi driver he vouched for was found to have a rape conviction has been urged to leave the council altogether. Subhan Shafiq stepped down as Milton Keynes mayor after describing the man as being of "good current character". This helped the driver, Mr Shafiq's friend, to get a taxi driver's licence."

I have no opinion regarding Uber; never used it, no particular desire to do so, hardly use regular taxis as it is.

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Its the same with the medical profession.

Tried to launch a service where your click an app and have any pharmaceutical product delivered straight to your door. Our independent/freelance/innovative/entrepreneurial delivery partners would also perform any surgical procedure for a discount rate (provide your own knife) - but the amount of red tape was ridiculous

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Happy

Didn't they also do live organ transplants?

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Trollface

>You could be picked up by a convicted rapist in an ininsured car for all you know. I doubt Uber or its rating system would give you the slightest clue either. That's the fundamental issue here.

well except they do background checks and have insurance, but lets not let that get in the way of your mouth frothing

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Go

Ooo! Crossover!

Unter: Rapid Personal Transport and Organ Donation Service!

(Not an original idea: see The Holiday Home for Pets Pie Company Limited, from Monty Python's Big Red Book)

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You cannot put the brakes on progress.

You can put the brakes on anything you like in a regulated industry if you are the regulator.

But somehow I don't see how unleasing a bandit horde of untrained, unlicensed, unregulated and quite probably uninsured "taxis" on to the city streets is any kind of progress.

-A.

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Trollface

Re: You cannot put the brakes on progress.

But somehow I don't see how unleasing a bandit horde of untrained, unlicensed, unregulated and quite probably uninsured "taxis" on to the city streets is any kind of progress.

Indeed, it might be better to employ these unleased people in government jobs.

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Re: You cannot put the brakes on progress.

>bandit horde of untrained, unlicensed, unregulated and quite probably uninsured "taxis"

Except that Uber require drivers to have a private-hire license and commercial insurance and pass background checks.

Assuming a private-hire licence requires some form of training then every point of your sentance is an incorrect assumption

hth

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Re: You cannot put the brakes on progress.

The standard repository of all knowledge states:

"[A]n August 13, 2014 decision banned the service from operating in Berlin due to safety concerns—the latter decision, which includes a €25,000 (Euro) (US$33,400) fine for non-compliance, cited issues pertaining to unregulated vehicles and unqualified drivers who are not properly insured."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uber_(company)#Germany

-A.

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Holmes

A touch of clarity...

"..On top of all the government loses out on tax income..."

Aye! There's the rub. That's what really upsets them.

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Happy

Re: A touch of clarity...

Well Ted, who do you think pays for your Army.

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Thumb Up

The temporary injunction only bans Uber from arranging taxi services with unlicensed drivers (given they charge more than the pure cost of operation). As far as I'm concerned, I can neither see why this should be a bad thing or prevent progress. It only seems that Uber needs to vet its drivers. If I want some unlicensed drivers I can make use of one of the illegal minicab drivers that loiter in the early hours around London's night clubs.

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In Germany the drivers have to be licenced by the local authority in order for them to be able to get commercial insurance for carrying passengers. If they don't, the insurance is null and void.

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So, there we have it. There are illegal minicab drivers in the UK as well. The only difference appears to be the definition of what is a minicab. It just seems that German courts are going to interpret the definition of minicab to include cars booked through Uber (and possibly in the UK they aren't).

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Uber is properly registered as a minicab service in London.

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Facepalm

The next service will be called "Lusitania". They won't torpedo it.

“The Passenger Transport Act regulates driver and consumer protection,” the cooperative’s chairman Dieter Schlenker said. “It can’t be overturned no matter how neoliberal the company.”

Incorrect use of "neoliberal" and hint at socialistic-populistic brainrot. Oh wait, he's from a union.

Instant disqualification.

Also, in b4 Andrew permanently moves his residence to Berlin etc.

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Uzbekistan...

I worked in Tashkent for a while. A very nice city and nice people. There are no taxis. You just put out your hand and someone will stop and pick you up. Maybe they're on their way to work, or on their way home. Maybe they're just nipping out to do some shopping. As long as your destination isn't too far out of their way, they'll take you for an agreed price.

Sounds terrifying - but worked each and every time for me in Tashkent and Bhukara!

The Uzbeks have the ultimate Taxi business model - no taxis. No middle-men whatsoever.

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Re: Uzbekistan...

That's because its just a 3rd world black market economy.

This is a new generational trans formative cloud based business model.

The difference is a few $Bn in VC money.

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Joke

Re: Uzbekistan...

We used to call it hitchhiking, done it in many countries. Quite economical, no preorders though, some funny drivers, some drunk.

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Luddites 1

Citizens 0

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Re: Luddites 1

Sensible People 1

Idiots who want to ride in an unlicensed, uninsured, illegal car 0

FTFY

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Anonymous Coward

We believe innovation and competition is good for everyone

and it's got absolutely zilch to do with being on the profit end of it. nosir.

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They think it's all...

Does this mean it's all over for Uber?

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Flame

Just fuck off

Europe, Uber.

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Seems to be a lot of cabbies here. Pity about 90% of them here in Sydney Australia have no idea where I'm going. I offer to point, but no, they insist on entering my destination into their wiz-bang TomTom and would follow that route - even though it's my city and I know my way around, on and off peak.

Then comes Uber. Couldn't give a fuck if they don't know where to go (though my limited experience with them, isn't any worse than cabbies) as they're cheaper.

Yes, the taxi cartel should be re-built, because if I can't get a cabbie who knows where they're going, at least MAKE THEM FUCKING CHEAPER!

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There needs to be a middle ground. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater

As a London user of Uber, I think there needs to be a middle ground. The Uber system is a fantastically innovative idea that puts more power in the hands of the consumer rather than the cartels than have run the ingrained systems for so long. Uber has revolutionised the London taxi market. London Black cabs are insanely expensive, and as a result my usage of them has probably dropped by 70% in the last 5 years (i.e. even before Uber I had basically stopped using them because they are so expensive). Uber coming in has meant I now take cabs again, so if the ingrained Cartels woke up and embraced the new world, the authorities dropped some of the regulation around them, and allowed them to operate Uber style, then we would all be much better off all round, the taxis would get more custom and the customers would pay less. In London also, Uber drivers need to have a private hire license in order to operate, so there is already a background check on them and whether they have the relevant insurances. I also get the name, photograph and license plate of the driver picking me up, which I never got with a Black cab. The next stage of this system however, should be a completely free-market, i.e. you should not have Uber setting the prices, the customer should set the rate they are willing to pay and the system should match them up to a driver that is willing to do the journey for that rate.

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rav

Taxi APPS SHOULD BE OUTLAWED.

Taxi Apps have a negatively impacted the availability of taxis.

This happens in areas such as Malls that have a Taxi Queing area. Folks are cheating the que by using their Taxi App and cabs are picking up in the drop-off areas. This is resulting in very long lines where just a few months ago there were NONE.

Also some cab drivers now do not drive around for a fare but rather pull over and wait for the call to appear. This lowers the availability of cabs for random services for pedestrians.

While Taxi Apps certainly benefit the App creator and they earn a few dollars more for the cab driver, they are having a hugely negative impact on the consumer.

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Re: Taxi APPS SHOULD BE OUTLAWED.

There is a very simple solution to that, have a separate pickup and set down area for app ordered taxis, then the CUSTOMER (which all the taxi drivers seem to treat with contempt in this argument) can choose whether they want to take a standard taxi at the queue point or order an app taxi.

The existing system works great for the monopoly already in place, and works well for the taxi drivers but the people who are not considered in the current system are the customers, which is why I like systems like Uber. It's given the customer choice again.

I am not sure which country you are from, but here in London, my standard taxi usage dropped by about 70% over 5 years because the prices just kept going up and up and up, while my wages did not. At least with Uber I can afford to get a taxi, whereas the existing system is just for rich people now.

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Makes sense - see Thailand

In Thailand, taxi drivers can be any regular people who just rent a taxi car, then listen to the radio for any possible customers. Those people don't go through background checks and are not insured. And sure enough, there are plenty of cases of taxi drivers raping and even killing passengers, stealing from them, and so on.

Now considering Germany apparently having a nice system with mandatory background checks, insurance, and safety nets for both drivers and passengers, it makes sense to not allow a anything goes system like in Thailand. I'm all for progress but I can certainly see the possible issues here.

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