After running into problems in cities across Europe, Uber has quickly moved from “the best transport app ever” to “the most controversial transport app ever”. Black cabs protesting against the company brought London to a standstill; Parisian taxi drivers smashed Uber cars’ windows; in Belgium, the service was banned completely, after undercutting local taxi drivers.
But in perhaps its most dramatic run-in to date, a Frankfurt court ruled that the company’s “UberPop” service lacked adequate insurance and licenses to carry passengers; as a result, it’s banned it.
In Germany, as in Paris, Brussels, and Barcelona, Uber introduced UberPop to circumvent potential problems with transport regulations. Under this system, anyone can register to be a driver, and the app will connect you with potential customers. Prices can be up to 50 per cent cheaper than the app’s original UberX service, which uses professional drivers.
The case against UberPop was brought by Taxi Deutschland, a country-wide association of taxi companies. Dieter Schlenker, the group’s chairman, said in a statement:
“Uber cashes in without investing and doesn't take any responsibility: drivers are not checked and they are getting neither national insurance nor set wages. Vehicles are not registered or insured for transportation, passengers lose all important protection. On top of all the government loses out on tax income.
“With this type of 'locust economy' the government, society and employees equally lose out.”
Currently, Uber operates in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt and Duesseldorf. Just last week, it announced further expansion into Cologne and Stuttgart. We guess that won’t be happening, then.
That said, the BBC, reports that Uber still appears to be operating in Germany, and you can still order UberPop rides in these cities. A spokesperson told CityAM:
"We will continue to operate in Germany and will appeal the recent lawsuit filed by Taxi Deutschland in Frankfurt. You cannot put the brakes on progress.”
Uber will appeal the ruling later this year. If it loses, the firm could be fined up to €250,000 per journey, while drivers could be imprisoned for up to six months if they defy the ban. Not such a cheap ride anymore, then.