back to article German court slaps down Uber's ride-sharing app

A German court has slapped Uber with a nationwide ban on its ride-sharing app Uberpop – again. The ruling means the app is no longer allowed, as it enables users to be ferried around by drivers who do not hold the requisite professional licences – a requirement under German law. The company's other services are still …

  1. John 73

    Uber arrogance again

    Love the line that this is "a fundamental infringement of our ability under European law to establish and provide a service". Someone needs to remind arrogant Silicon-Valley types that there is NO right to establish and provide a service! It's a privilege to be able to do so, earned by creating and delivering value in line with the best interests of your customer (not yourself). (And I say this as a startup founder and CEO myself.)

    While bureaucratic caution can cause all sorts of problems, these ride-sharing services seem like ticking time bombs to me. There's a reason that taxis were traditionally licensed in most countries and cities: it makes it safer for the customer.

    1. cantankerous swineherd

      Re: Uber arrogance again

      wait till the top secret trade agreement is signed - Uber will be able to sue nation states for not letting it do what the hell it likes.

    2. Velv Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Uber arrogance again

      Even if European Law is interpreted as a right to create a service, it will be WITHIN the existing laws and regulations of the member state.

      Would Uber expect to be able to set up a service providing children to paedophiles under the same European right, as that's what their statement implies!

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Uber arrogance again

      Nobody is stopping them doing business. They just have to make sure their drivers are properly licensed. If the aren't properly licensed, they cannot get insurance for their vehicles to transport paying passengers.

      It is as simple as that, for Uber. Ensure you get your drivers professional licenses and they can get insurance, so they can drive their cars with paying passengers on board. Given the number of taxi businesses popping up lately, it doesn't seem that there are too many restrictions to getting drivers licensed.

    4. Grunchy

      Re: Uber arrogance again

      I disagree, and here's why. If a person has a hammer or tools, they are allowed to register a business, with no regard to how many other people there are out there doing the same thing. Taxi licenses are finite, however. Taxis are ungodly expensive and there are lots of unemployed guys who want something simple to do, like ferry passengers. But it's impossible to get a taxi license! They are all taken, long time ago.

      The taxi industry is one of protectionism, it seems worldwide (and I thought it was only in Canada).

      Über is bringing that story into mainstream attention, I applaud them for that.

      The ultimate end of this is, more competition, and more consumer choice.

      Also, I predict a huge drop in drunk driving deaths. If the price of a ride home goes down to what it is actually worth, who would risk drunk driving? A lot less people, that's for sure.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Uber arrogance again

        I wrote a long reply yesterday, but it seems to have disappeared (doesn't appear in my posts, no message that it was deleted by a mod... So I'll try again.

        If a person has a hammer or tools, they are allowed to register a business, with no regard to how many other pis eople there are out there doing the same thing. Taxi licenses are finite, however.

        We are talking about professional driving licences in the first order. Looking at the law, they don't need a taxi licence - after all, you have limo services as well, they aren't registered taxis.

        In order to legally carry paying passengers (and thereby be able to insure the vehicle) the driver needs to have a professional driving licence. This is just a higher form of the normal driving licence and is controlled by the equivalent of the DVLA, not the local council (which is responsible for the taxi licences).

        If the driver has not taken this additional driving test, they cannot legally carry paying passengers and therefore cannot get commercial insurance for their vehicles.

        That means that if they do carry paying passengers, their insurance is null and void (a criminal offence - driving without insurance). If the insurance company finds out, they will send somebody round to remove the licence plates from the vehicle. If the police catch them, then they will face heavy fines and lose their licence for a period. of time.

        As to taxi licences, there seem to be plenty to go around - there have been 4 new taxi companies and a few dozen new taxis pop up around here in the last 18 months (small town and has pretty much doubled the number of taxis in the area).

        If they are running a taxi service (i.e. charging per journey) as opposed to a limo service (price per hour or per day), then driver needs a taxi licence and the vehicles have to be fitted with a calibrated meter to ensure that the passenger is not being ripped off. The price is set by the local council and the meters are calibrated by the German equivalent of the Weights and Measures office.

        If the driver doesn't have a meter he will face heavy fines. If the meter is fitted but not calibrated, he will face a smaller fine and be banned from carrying passengers until he has had the meter calibrated and sealed.

        There is nothing to stop Uber from operating legally. They just need to ensure their drivers have the professional driving licence and that they have valid insurance and a taxi licence and calibrated meter.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Uber arrogance again

        If a person has a hammer or tools, they are allowed to register a business, with no regard to how many other people there are out there doing the same thing.

        Re-reading that... Actually, no, you can't. In order to register a business as a carpenter, for example, you need to be a Schreinergesseler, until you have this qualification, you can't start a carpentry business.

        Likewise, if you want to open a car repair workshop, you need to have completed both your apprenticeship as an auto mechanic and also studied for your "Meisterbreif" (Master Craftsman's Diploma). Without the Meisterbrief you cannot run a business in that profession - this goes for most professions. Some modern professions, such as computer programmer don't have the equivalent of a Meisterbrief.

        Even if somebody dies and leaves you a business, you cannot run that business without a Meisterbrief - for example, if your father ran a butcher's shop and died, unless you had a Butcher's Meisterbrief, you could not run the family business - you would have to hire a Meister until such time as you have completed your Meisterbrief - depending on whether you have already completed the apprenticeship, that could be between 3 and 6 years.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >> The company's other services are still permitted

    Which are?

    >> court said drivers breaking the ban could face fines of up to 250,000 per trip

    The law is and always will be an arse

    >> Someone needs to remind arrogant Silicon-Valley types that there is NO right to establish and provide a service! It's a privilege to be able to do so, earned by creating and delivering value in line with the best interests of your customer (not yourself)

    Jeez Loise, I've used them several times and found them excellent so they clearly delivered value to me. Please don't think this has anything to do with the "best interests of the customer" this is pure and simple "closed shop" preservation. The courts/authorities could clearly demand registers of drivers, contact details, background checks, etc, etc, that would help the service be safe and would not interfere with the basic concept.

    >> There's a reason that taxis were traditionally licensed in most countries and cities

    Yes, money

    1. Vimes

      The courts/authorities could clearly demand registers of drivers, contact details, background checks, etc, etc, that would help the service be safe and would not interfere with the basic concept.

      Which would presumably be paid for. Paid registration rather sounds like the licencing arrangements they have at present.

    2. Vimes

      I've used them several times and found them excellent so they clearly delivered value to me.

      Do you understand the concept of risk? For all you know the next time could be an absolute disaster and an avoidable one at that.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC - The fact that you used and liked their service

      doesn't mean the service is legal. You can say the same thing about heroin for an example or about a paid killer.

      Oh and by the way, instead all of the documents you mention while simply forgetting to add a commercial insurance to your list (you're forgiven), the authorities are simply asking for a taxi license which sums all of that. Nothing prevents Uber to ask for licenses for its drivers.

      Please stop pushing Sillycon Valley smart BS on us.

    4. Sarah Balfour

      No, you ignorant arse, not money…

      …SAFETY! Given the choice between Uber and a black cab, it's an absolute no-brainer, there's no fucking WAY I'd risk Uber; no, I'm not saying I'd be any safer in a black cab, but I know who the driver is, and I can scribble down his licence and registration details, which I make a point of doing because it makes me feel safer. That way, if he DOES turn out to be a serial sex offender - or worse - I've got summat to give the plod*.There's no way of checking if an Uber driver is who (s)he says they are.

      *That said, I'm shit-scared of THEM, too (for VERY good reason).

      1. phil dude
        WTF?

        Re: No, you ignorant arse, not money…

        Risk, seriously? Do you live in Bogota or Lagos?

        I have had much dodgier taxi rides in London and New York than I have had (so far) with Uber.

        The problem is taxis live in a pampered world of regulated profit. You say "you know who the driver is" as if someone seriously intent on hurting you would care?

        If taxis had immediate feedback like Uber, some of your points may be valid. I'm betting this is the reason the taxi industry is REALLY fighting Uber.

        How about the taxi firms buy a license from Uber (or Lyft) and quit their whining?

        P.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No, you ignorant arse, not money…

          @ phil dude

          So you don't consider being a passenger in an uninsured car a risk?

          1. phil dude
            Megaphone

            Re: No, you ignorant arse, not money…

            Thank you AC. Yes a dodgy minicab ride in London is a risk...we've all been there including threats of violence and demands for more money when they get lost.

            In NYC we were approached by a guy who said "need a ride" at the Cloisters museum. You couldn't make this up as dodgy as it looked. Needless to say the Uber arrived (picture of the driver, and make model and colour of car), leaving us wondering "who would go with that guy". The final irony, there is a bus that goes there but no taxis.

            Uber insures all vehicles or at least compels drivers to be adequately covered - I think there was a lawsuit about that, no?

            I'll say it again for those who are scared of progress and want to have another go at downvoting for the status quo, taxis should license the Uber app.

            It's not as if Uber doesn't charge for different vehicle classes...add a picture of a Black cab and see if people pay for it.

            P.

        2. Alan Mackenzie

          Re: No, you ignorant arse, not money…

          "The problem is taxis live in a pampered world of regulated profit."

          Oh, yes? You should try making your living as a taxi driver in Germany. On my last regular taxi ride, in Schweinfurt, the journey of ~5km usually took 10 minutes, for which I paid a mere 11 Euros (including tip). Given that it's going to have taken another 10 minutes for the taxi to get back to the town centre, that works out at around 30 Euros per hour in the best case, when the driver gets another passenger immediately.

          From that <30 Euros per hour, the driver's got to buy and maintain his vehicle, pay for fuel and insurance and if he's lucky, there'll be a bit left over to pay his food and rent. No wonder they all work long, long days (and frequently nights). The service they provided was superb.

          If these ratbags Uber get their way, it will be a race to the bottom. The already marginal livelihood of taxi drivers will be crushed out of existence by illegal competition from those who hold laws and social order in total contempt. I'm behind the German courts and taxi drivers all the way.

    5. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      @AC

      >> The company's other services are still permitted

      Which are?

      -=-

      The services where they use licensed professional drivers which meet the requirements under German law.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    I can't wait....

    ...for driverless Taxi's.

    Fan and shit come to mind.

    Popcorn please.

    1. Steven Roper

      Re: I can't wait....

      "Hi! I'm Johnnycab! Where can I take you tonight?"

  4. El_Fev

    I woulds feel more for uber..

    If they had arranged their structue to pay as litle amount of tax possible in the counties that they operate.. so fuck em!

  5. DropBear Silver badge
    Devil

    Oh well...

    The strong odour of organized-whatever that Uber has aside, I have less than zero respect for and interest in obeying a law that endeavours to regulate what two consenting adults can or cannot do as long as it involves nobody else particularly. That applies for ANY such law, with the exception of the ones that forbid signing away your fundamental rights. You will excuse me for not having any sympathy for the current ugly fat and corrupt gatekeepers flailing around desperately to protect their own miserable little kingdoms / turfs / rackets.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @DropBear - Re: Oh well...

      Only if that pair of adults are doing it in their private space which is not the case here.

      Sorry, pal, but law can't be the sum of all things any pair of consenting adult individuals fancy doing at any time and anywhere. As for fat and corrupt gatekeepers, Uber is not very far from so I'm having no sympathy either.

      1. Metrognome
        Joke

        Re: @DropBear - Oh well...

        After all, going by the age old joke, that's Germany so anything that's not expressly allowed is forbidden.

        (France: Even what is forbidden it's still allowed; Switzerland: anything that's not expressly forbidden is obligatory and Greece: everything is allowed provided you know the right people; and the latest newcomer, Russia: everything is forbidden, even that which is expressly allowed).

  6. Stratman

    In other news

    German taxi drivers are now looking for looms to destroy.

    1. Boothy

      Re: In other news

      There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the idea of Uber, the issue is that they are happy to have unchecked, untrained and uninsured drivers working for them.

      If the drivers got themselves an appropriate license, most of the issues hitting Uber now, would likely vanish.

      1. phil dude
        Go

        Re: In other news

        @Boothy: please a citation for "uninsured" and "unchecked".

        The company has this spelling out their liability.

        If they are lying, please point it out so the lawsuits can get started...

        P.

        1. DainB Bronze badge

          Re: In other news

          The are lying about background checks for sure, won't bother go any further

          http://pando.com/2014/01/06/exclusive-uber-driver-accused-of-assault-passed-zero-tolerance-background-check-despite-criminal-history/

  7. DrXym Silver badge

    Nothing to stop Uber operating in Germany and elsewhere

    They just have to abide by the laws and standards that all their competition must follow. It doesn't stop them from making money.

  8. dorsetknob
    Facepalm

    Crystal Ball Gazing

    Just Wait till that Transatlantic trade treaty is rammed down our gullets

    Uber to German government

    "" Under the terms of Transatlantic trade treaty legislation Your law stops us from conducting our business in the way we (Americans ) want. so we are going to Sue You for $3 billion as compensation Oh and you got to change your laws to suit us""

    1. Keven E.

      Re: Crystal Ball Gazing

      Double thumbs up, dorsetknob!

      ******

      Perhaps you, too, would like to *own a cab company...

      http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-yellow-cab-files-for-bankruptcy-hours-after-jury-awards-26m-verdict-20150318-story.html

    2. Steven Roper

      Re: Crystal Ball Gazing

      "Under the terms of Transatlantic trade treaty legislation Your law stops us from conducting our business in the way we (Americans ) want..."

      Sounds like you fellas have been saddled with the same treasonous sellout of your national sovereignty to American corporations as we have here in Australia with the TPP. Any national government signing these fucking trade agreements should be collectively charged with high treason.

      And America scratches its head and wonders why the rest of the world hates its fucking guts.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Innovation meet .... regulation or why Free enterprise is now a fairytale

    Once upon a time, when you built a better mousetrap, the world would beat a path to your door.

    Established, inefficient ratcatchers would weep at first. Eventually, they would admit defeat and then follow in the innovator's footsteps or find a new line of work.

    Now the ratcatchers just call on their tamed, fellow bureau-rats ....

    The bureau-rats then begin strictly enforcing antiquated protectionist laws (or else create new ones) previously enacted for this type of eventuality (aka competition).

    The ratcatchers continue to ply their over-priced inefficient service and the monopoly is maintained....

    I'm waiting to be convinced otherwise......

    1. Metrognome

      Re: Innovation meet .... regulation or why Free enterprise is now a fairytale

      I agree with the sentiment; disagree with the premise.

      I fully subscribe to your frustration with regulators, regulatory capture and how modern manifestations of capitalism have little to do with its classical definition.

      Most large enterprises seek to establish their turf not by virtue of their product/service but by subverting regulators to erect notional and real barriers to entry.

      What we experience from Big Corp these days is protectionist's arms race.

      But with Uber; I'm afraid you've mixed up the roles. If you think that Uber is this svelte witty underdog fighting the good fight with the behemoths of the taxi profession; think again.

    2. lucki bstard

      Re: Innovation meet .... regulation or why Free enterprise is now a fairytale

      'Once upon a time, when you built a better mousetrap, the world would beat a path to your door.' - In your dreams perhaps. Give me an example or move off.

      1. MrEdC

        Re: Innovation meet .... regulation or why Free enterprise is now a fairytale

        The light bulb.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC - Re: Innovation meet .... regulation or why Free enterprise is now a fairytale

      Oh, cry me a river!

    4. Kristian Walsh

      Re: Innovation meet .... regulation or why Free enterprise is now a fairytale

      Horseshit. If your "better mousetrap" involves exposing its users to higher risks so that you can make it cheaper, then you're not competing, you're cheating.

      Taxis started out as unlicensed businesses in every part of the world. Why is it that nearly every part of the word imposes strict regulations on who can operate a taxi?

      Predatory criminals haven't disappeared just because some super-entrepreneur has invented a JSON API or whatever techno-flimflam argument is put forward. Human nature is pretty much constant. Technology is only an enabler for what's already there.

      Libertarianism is just as stupid an ideal as Communism. Both assume that people only act rationally, and in the best interests of society...

    5. dan1980

      Re: Innovation meet .... regulation or why Free enterprise is now a fairytale

      @AC

      Many taxi companies are horrid enterprises, this much is true. But in disliking them, many Uber apologists make the mistake of innocently misunderstanding or deliberately misrepresenting the situation and the history behind it.

      As stated by another poster, above, taxi services started off unregulated in most cities and countries. Taxi regulation emerged from the problems that existed with the unregulated industry. The regulation was not created due to pressure from some greedy company, though no doubt there would have been instances of undue influence from groups. But, the fact that almost every 'modern' city has strict regulations governing taxi services, it is relatively safe to assume that the problems that were faced are endemic to an unregulated taxi industry.

      So, regulation was implemented, though the specific regulations obviously varied.

      What was created, in many cities, was a monopoly, but it was a government monopoly, with the government deciding and controlling who could and could not operate a taxi service and what criteria they must meet and what standards they must meet. Taxi drivers and services are therefore more akin to franchisees who have bought into the system after meeting the requirements and paying their money. To stay as a 'franchisee', they must continue to meet certain standards, just as is the case for many more conventional franchises.

      The existing taxi services are the ones who are adhering to the regulations imposed by the government and this is a bargain. It costs money for the drivers and services to do this - not just to buy in but to maintain their cars at a certain level and ensure correct training and monitoring, response times and numbers, service levels, etc...

      In return, the franchisees are granted a semi-exclusive right to operate.

      In some locations, nearly anyone can be a taxi driver so long as they meet the requirements and get licensed appropriately and there are no limits of the number of licenses. In other locations, this is controlled very tightly.

      BUT, the important point is that whatever the situation is, it is a situation implement, managed and controlled by the government.

  10. dan1980

    A spokesman from Uber said: “We regret today’s interim ruling. We respect the German legal system. We will now wait to see the court’s reasoning and review it thoroughly."

    The reasoning? I thought it was pretty bloody simple: German law requires all drivers who transport paying customers to be insured for that. German law further requires all drivers wishing to be insured in this fashion to have the appropriate licensing.

    These drivers do not have the licensing so they can not be insured and so they are not permitted to carry paying passengers.

    I just don't see how it could be simpler: if you carry paying passengers without a license and insurance to do so, you are breaking the law.

    This is just like several trades in Australia - if you do (certain) electrical work without a license you are breaking the law and so get fined. This Uber service is therefore akin to one where unlicensed contractors can register and potential clients can use an app to connect them with one of these unlicensed contractors and engage them to perform unlicensed work. Oh, and then arrange payment - through the app and service.

    If such a service existed it would be banned because it would exist to not only facilitate unlawful behaviour but to encourage it and manage payment for it.

    Whether Uber is good or bad or cheap or a rip-off or game-changing or disruptive is irrelevant - driving a taxi service without a taxi license is illegal in Germany.

  11. Keven E.

    In a van down by the river

    "...or at least compels drivers to be adequately covered..."

    Based on the cost of medical treatment these days (not to mention vehicles), even with their additional coverage on top of whatever "compelled" insurance the driver has which they deem ok (the site says nothing about the requirements of the driver's policy), this falls short of "adequate" in my book.

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