Uber banned by German court. Will other nations follow suit?

Uber has been banned from operation in Germany by a Frankfurt court, the latest shot in the popular app's fight with taxi drivers worldwide. The ruling comes after Berlin authorities last month barred Uber from operating in the capital because of safety concerns.

Joerg Carstensen/Reuters/File
Taxi drivers gather after a protest drive against the competition from Internet and mobile applications designed for calling cabs in Berlin, Germany. Berlin taxi drivers are now celebrating a decision by authorities to ban the ridesharing service Uber from operating in the city.

A court has barred ridesharing service Uber from operating in Germany, the latest shot in the popular app's fight with taxi drivers worldwide.

Frankfurt state court spokesman Arne Hasse said Tuesday the decision that Uber can't offer its services without a specific permit under German transport laws applies nationwide.

The injunction applies pending a full hearing of a suit brought against Uber by Taxi Deutschland, a German cab association that also offers its own taxi-ordering app. The suit is being heard in Frankfurt because it is one of the several German cities in which Uber operates.

San Francisco-based Uber said in a statement it would use "all legal means" to fight the case.

"It's never a good idea to limit people's choices," Uber said. "We believe that innovation and competition is good for everyone — it profits both drivers and passengers."

The ruling comes after Berlin authorities last month barred Uber from operating in the capital because of safety concerns.

Taxi Deutschland's arguments were in line with those of established cab companies that claim Uber's app-based services, which offer limousines and pickups by private drivers, dodge rules that ordinary taxi firms have to abide by.

The question of how to guide and regulate the operations of Uber and other ridesharing companies has vexed cities across the world all summer. As the Monitor reported in July: 

On July 3, London's transport regulator said Uber could operate. The day before in Pittsburgh, judges told Uber and Lyft, another ride-sharing service, to stop operations immediately until they had received approval from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. New York's attorney general is investigating Uber for price-gouging.

Austin, Texas, seems to be of two minds: The city council instituted a pilot program for ride-sharing in May with an eye toward developing standards, but the Austin police have used sting operations to impound the cars of ride-sharing drivers.

The battle is sharp, because so much business is at stake, and emotions are running high. 

At last month's public meeting in Cambridge, for example, Donna Blythe-Shaw, a spokeswoman for the Boston Taxi Drivers Association, claimed that business for traditional cab companies was down 35 to 40 percent thanks to ride-sharing, and painted Uber as a big-time corporate threat to the small business cab medallion owners. "Wall Street has come to Main Street," she quipped to the panel, noting Uber's recent $1.2 billion round of fundraising from big-time investors like BlackRock and Google Ventures.

Earlier in the day, Uber posted a blog pointing out a series of damaging regulations being proposed by the city, including a $50 minimum fare for rides not taken through a traditional, registered taxicab company. And it urged customers to turn out in numbers at the meeting to voice their support.

Taxi Deutschland said Uber allows drivers to skirt safety and insurance regulations that apply to conventional cabs, and for employers to avoid sector benefit and wage agreements and taxes.

"The state, society and workers all lose," the company said in a statement.

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