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German court imposes nationwide ban on uberPOP services

Britta Pedersen, AFP/ DPA file picture | A user looks for an available Uber driver in Berlin by using the mobile application, April 24, 2015

A German regional court on Wednesday issued a nationwide ban on online taxi service Uber, barring it from operating commercial services and levelling stiff fines for any violations of the country’s local transport laws.

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Each violation of the order against Uber and its uberPOP online service would be subject to a €250,000 fine, a three-judge panel of the Frankfurt regional court ruled.

An Uber spokesman said the company expected to appeal the court’s decision.

“We regret today’s decision by the Frankfurt regional court to prevent Uber from contributing to better and cheaper individual mobility,” Uber Germany’s General Manager Fabien Nestmann said outside the courtroom.

Uber also said it will continue to operate services using professional limousine drivers and licensed taxi drivers.

“We will not give up on the German market: our uberBLACK and uberTAXI services remain unaffected by today’s judgment,” the company said in a statement.

It also said it was working on a new alternative ridesharing service designed to comply with the court’s interpretations of existing German laws.

The case was brought by German taxi operator group Taxi Deutschland who hailed the decision as a move that would protect professional taxi drivers from competition by unlicensed casual workers employed by Uber.

“What does it mean for the 255,000 taxi drivers and employees in 700 radio taxi control centres? It means legal certainty -- 255,000 real jobs and taxpayers will remain in Germany,” Dieter Schlenker, chairman of the Taxi Deutschland cooperative, said following the ruling.

Contested around the world

San Francisco-based Uber, which enables users to summon taxi-like services on their phones via an app, is under fire from taxi operators and city officials around the world, who allege that the service breaches licensing laws governing professional taxi drivers and informal ridesharing arrangements.

The ban in Germany is just the latest in a string of challenges that Uber faces.

On December 15, France’s interior ministry announced that uberPOP would be banned from the start of 2015, after the country’s taxi drivers staged multiple protests against the service.

A Dutch court on December 8 ruled that the uberPOP service violated current taxi laws.

On the same day, the city government in New Delhi banned Uber from operating in the Indian capital after a passenger accused one of its drivers of rape.

A day later, a judge in Spain also banned Uber's ridesharing service, saying it violated laws on fair competition.

Thailand has also ruled Uber illegal.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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