A German court in Frankfurt on Thursday upheld the country’s ban of ride-hailing app UberPOP, which offers taxi services by unlicensed (cab) drivers, in a further setback for the online firm which faces uphill legal battles throughout Europe. In France, a criminal court fined Uber € 800.000 for running the illegal transport service UberPOP. Two Uber-executives narrowly escaped jail.
The Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt rejected Uber’s appeal against the verdict by a lower court last year in March, which set stiff fines for any violations of local transport laws after German taxi operator group Taxi Deutschland had filed a complaint. UberPOP, an online service that links private drivers with passengers via their mobile phone apps, has seen taxi drivers protest against it throughout Europe and to date has been declared illegal by courts in Italy, Spain and Germany, while appeals are pending in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Though Uber has faced the wrath of local legislators and taxi industries in many markets, France emerged as one of the hottest battle grounds last summer when taxi drivers staged a nationwide strike that disrupted travel across the country, with violence permeating many of the protests. Uber finally announced that it would cease its controversial UberPop service in France.
Uber has ceased operating its UberPop service in many other European markets. The company was forced out of Madrid back in 2014, following pressure and protests from local taxi groups, but relaunched there again earlier this year with a vow to only use professional, licensed drivers through UberX. It was a similar story in Moscow, where Uber was received an official green light this year after agreeing to limit its service to registered drivers. Uber continues to operate in France using professional drivers, but it hasn’t yet revealed any plans to reinstate UberPop.
A French criminal court finally reached a verdict in the long-running case against Uber, accused of running the illegal transport service UberPOP. The court ruled that Uber must pay an €800,000 fine – half of that suspended, pending Uber’s future conduct. Reports in the buildup to the case suggested that local taxi unions were requesting over € 100 million in damages, while two Uber executives were facing jail or a nationwide ban on managing any company for five years. Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty (general manager for Western Europe) was fined €30,000 while Thibaud Simphal (general manager France), was given a €20,000 fine — again, half of these fines were suspended. Gore-Coty and Simphal faced charges based on carrying out “deceptive commercial practices,” permitting “illegal taxi services,” and “illicit storage of personal data.” Though they have been found guilty and fined, they are relieved to have been spared jail time and can continue to work.
Meanwhile in Germany: ’The Higher Regional Court has now ruled on appeal: The business model of UberPOP is unlawful’, said Taxi Deutschland in a press statement. Dieter Schlenker, Chairman of the nationwide cooperative Taxi Germany (Taxi Deutschland) which operates the same app, commented:
“We are pleased justice has been done. Again, it was judicially determined that justice applies equally for small and large companies. The judgment comes as a positive outcome to all those who can’t fight alone against large corporate interests: these are the approximately 21,000 small entrepreneurs, employees in 700 taxi companies and around 255,000 taxi drivers in Germany. They work in good jobs, earn minimum wages and receive social security. These are also the consumers. For the German transport law which Uber so greedily wants to ignore, also functions as consumer protection.”
“Today’s ruling is in itself also important for people who never take a taxi: unlike this large international company, the German taxi and private hire market each year pays nearly € 2 billion in taxes, charges and (social) insurance.” Uber can only test this appeal in the highest court in the land: the Federal Court. The press release continues: “Uber’s legal problems are a global phenomenon – everywhere in the world the passenger transport market is regulated. In many countries authorities and courts fight Uber, as the company insists on ignoring the law.”
• UberPOP remains banned in Germany.