For Uber, just because Berlin says 'no' does not mean it will listen

Despite facing a ban in Berlin, the taxi-on-demand company Uber has said it will continue offering its services in the German capital. 

Max Whittaker/Reuters/File
Taxi drivers protest against transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft along with Assembly Bill 2293 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. in June.

Apparently, Uber is not taking no for an answer.

The popular taxi-on-demand company said Thursday that it will continue to operate in Berlin even after it was officially banned by a local authority. 

Berlin's senate Wednesday prohibited use of the app in order to ensure passenger safety, more than a year after Uber first started in the city. 

"Uber thus must not use a smartphone app or similar offers as of now, or arrange offers through this app which infringe the passenger transportation law," said Berlin's state department for citizens’ and regulatory affairs, in a press release.

For every time Uber violates this ban, it risks facing a fine of €25,000 ($33,000). 

In response, Uber has pledged to keep offering its service in the German capital, saying that it will challenge the Berlin authority's decision. 

"The service is continuing," Fabien Nestmann, Germany general manager at Uber, told Bloomberg. "We’re disappointed and think this prohibition order is the wrong approach."

This follows a ban on Uber from Hamburg, the second largest city in Germany, which moved last month to ban the ride-sharing company only a month after Uber began operating there. Yet after Uber challenged the ban, it was subsequently suspended by a Hamburg court. 

"We intend to formally challenge this decision and fully expect that Berlin will follow the Hamburg authorities' lead and overturn the prohibition order," Mr. Nestmann said in a company blog post.

Of late, Uber and other similar ride-sharing apps have faced the ire of taxi drivers around the world, particularly in Europe, who are upset that an upstart like Uber can compete in their business without acquiring the same kinds of licensing and permission to operate, which can often be expensive to obtain. In June, for example, more than 30,000 disgruntled cab and limo drivers stalled traffic across European capitals in a mass protest against Uber. Similarly, though on a much smaller level, taxi drivers in Boston protested outside Uber's headquarters in the city, calling for increased regulation of the ride-sharing industry and saying that these types of apps threaten their livelihoods. 

In addition, Uber has recently been facing a series of sexual assault charges. Just last month, an Uber driver was charged with sexually assaulting a passenger in Washington, D.C.

But while other companies offer similar services, such as competitor Lyft, Uber takes most of the heat as the leading force in disruptions posed to the more traditional transportation industry. Founded in San Francisco in 2009, Uber works by connecting users with drivers via an app downloaded to smart phones. To date, it operates in more than 100 cities in 43 different countries. In a recent round of financing, the privately-held company was valued at $18.2 billion. That's a steep climb north from competitor Lyft, which was founded in 2012 and was recently valued at around $700 million. 

Still, that hasn't stopped the two companies from fiercely competing for market share, and even resorting to heavy-handed tactics. The two ride-sharing platforms are currently locked in a war of words, each side lobbing accusations at the other with charges of sabotage. Both Lyft and Uber have alleged that the other company is guilty of canceling rides on drivers from the competition, meaning that a driver could waste time and money driving to pick up a passenger that ends up not actually being there. 

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