The reversal of a ban on Uber in Germany is just the latest twist in the rollercoaster fortunes of the ride-sharing service.
Uber can operate in Germany, judges said Tuesday, overturning a previous court decision stopping the service from connecting drivers using a smartphone application.
The court heard the arguments of taxi drivers who saw Uber as a threat to their business. But they found that the delay in challenging the service meant that the imposed ban had to be overturned.
Uber launched its service in Germany in April but had been banned from operating in the country after legal action was brought by Taxi Deutschland. Now the injunction has been lifted because the German taxi drivers’ association brought the case in August rather than within two months after its launch.
The dispute over whether Uber contravenes the German Passenger Transport Act remains unresolved. While the court reversed the injunction, it did not decide on this point.
Facing difficulties in entering the German market, Uber hired hotshot lawyer Rupert Scholz from law firm Hengeler Mueller.
“After all, when a used car is sold on eBay, it is the seller who is liable, not the auction platform.”
Mr. Scholz, an expert in constitutional and European law and a former defense minister under former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, has written a powerful and compelling 18-page report questioning the judgments and decisions against the U.S.-based firm. His report was submitted last week to the district court in Frankfurt.
While judges have threatened Uber with fines up to €250,000 ($323,405) for each alleged offense, Mr. Scholz argues the company’s business model is legal in Germany. His primary argument is that Uber is not a taxi or transport operator covered under the German Passenger Transport Act, but a purely intermediary service. The cost of service is worked out between the driver and the passenger. If the driver lacks a license for transporting passengers, Mr. Scholz said, Uber should not be held responsible.
“After all, when a used car is sold on eBay, it is the seller who is liable, not the auction platform,” Mr. Scholz told Handelsblatt.
Additionally, Mr. Scholz believes previous decisions violate German constitutional law, which protects free choice of professions including intermediary services. Restrictions can only be put in place if there is “a direct threat to the common good.” The constitutional law expert said Uber doesn’t meet the criteria.
“At most,” Mr. Scholz said, “Protection against competition for the taxi trade is meant to be gained through the ban on intermediary services.”
Christopher Schlautmann writes about the retail industry for Handelsblatt and previously wrote for a trade magazine about the sector. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org