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Uber Faces Added German Setbacks as More Cities Weigh Ban

Demonstrators carry a banner reading
Demonstrators carry a banner reading "Uber Illegal" along a city highway as they protest against the Uber Technologies Inc. taxi app in central Madrid. Cabbies with licenses that can cost 200,000 euros ($266,000) apiece have staged protests in European cities including London, Madrid, Paris and Berlin. Photographer: Angel Navarrete/Bloomberg

Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Uber Technologies Inc., maker of the ride-hailing application that’s fighting bans by two German cities, may face additional setbacks in the country as other communities weigh blocking or restricting the service.

The Munich and Dusseldorf administrations agree with Berlin and Hamburg that those offering rides via Uber’s smartphone app need a cab driver’s license because they are doing so to earn a profit, representatives for the cities said.

“We’re currently focusing on the drivers whom we’ll control and fine if they transport people without a license,” Daniela Schlegel, a Munich spokeswoman, said in an interview. “But we’re also considering whether to issue a ban later.”

Governments and regulators in cities around the world are restricting Uber’s business on the grounds it poses safety risks and unfairly competes with licensed taxi services. Cabbies with licenses that can cost 200,000 euros ($266,000) apiece have staged protests in European cities including London, Madrid, Paris and Berlin.

Dusseldorf is considering taking legal action against Uber because the western German city considers the service illegal, Volker Paulat, a spokesman for the city government, said today in a phone interview.

The app has been popular in Germany since its start “and the riders and drivers on the platform want to see more Uber services,” Fabien Nestmann, a company representative, said in a statement to Bloomberg News. “It’s the policy makers who need to be brought up to speed on the benefits Uber is bringing and we’re in open dialogue to help them understand.”

Winning Investors

Investors including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Google Ventures are pouring cash into the burgeoning market for apps that let users order taxis and cars or share rides using their smartphones. San Francisco-based Uber, which is active in more than 40 countries, raised $1.2 billion in June, giving it a value of $17 billion.

Hamburg traffic authorities told Uber last month to stop operating in the port city, saying that transporting people without a license is against the law. Berlin followed last week. Both cities are waiting to enforce their decisions until courts rule on the matter following lawsuits by Uber to block the measures.

In Germany, Uber also operates in Frankfurt and plans to extend its services to Cologne and Stuttgart. Frankfurt’s city government is reviewing the legal issues the app raises “from all sides,” a spokesman said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Karin Matussek in Berlin at kmatussek@bloomberg.net; Stefan Nicola in Berlin at snicola2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net Chad Thomas, Kenneth Wong

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