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Berlin Bans Uber: The End to a Troubled Ride in the German Capital?

By David Knight |

Authorities in Berlin have banned both of Uber’s car services in the city, a move which the company said it would challenge. The ban was issued by the State Department of Civil and Regulatory Affairs (LABO) because of concerns over safety – passengers may not be insured while using the taxi alternative because the cars are not licensed cabs, it said.

In a statement, the body threatened San Francisco-based Uber with a fine of €25,000 if it ignored the order, which although taking effect immediately, is not final and which the company can appeal.

The move comes after growing opposition to Uber from the licensed taxi industry, with protests held in cities around Europe in June, although the demo in Berlin was relatively minor. But in any case, the German capital has not been a resounding success for the company since it launched here in February 2013, with the startling growth seen in other major cities absent and high staff turnover.

And in April this year, Richard Leipold, chairman of Berlin’s taxi association, gained an interim injunction against Uber, one which he didn’t enforce from fear high amounts of compensation would be payable if it was later overturned.

This time around, however, things are looking a little more serious for Uber.

In a statement, the department ordered the immediate enforcement of the order and said: “With it, Uber is from now no longer allowed to utilise any smartphone app or similar offerings, or convey through this app offers which are in breach of the Passenger Transport Act.”

It added: “The protection of passengers is a priority. … Furthermore, the provision also serves to protect the driver, since motor vehicle liability insurance does not cover the risk of passenger transport.”

Uber may appeal against the order – which covers both its premium UberBLACK offering and rideshare servce UberPOP – and may also apply against its immediate enforcement.

And Fabien Nestmann, general manager at Uber in Germany, said the company would do just that. “The decision from the Berlin authorities is not progressive and it’s seeking to limit consumer choice for all the wrong reasons,” he was quoted by the BBC as saying. “As a new entrant we’re bringing much-needed competition to a market that hasn’t changed in years.”

There may yet be some life in Uber’s attempts to conquer the Berlin market, but while the company has taken an optimistic tone, its chances of successfully overturning the ban appear at first glance to be limited. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that this is new territory for everyone – as the on/off attempts to ban Uber and similar services in other countries have proven.