Office searches in Brussel and Paris, a ban on competition in Germany, and a chief financial officer who suddenly needs more time with his family. The Uber empire, still worth 40 billion dollars, continues to be put on the defensive.
Over the past several days, U.S. ridesharing service Uber had to accept some tough legal verdicts against them in Europe and Asia.
For example, a district court in Frankfurt heard a complaint from ‘Taxi Deutschland’ against the U.S. company last Wednesday. The association of various German radio circuits, which provide transport bookings via a proprietary smartphone app, had taken civil action on the ground of unfair competition. Taxi Deutschland called for a ban on the ‘UberPOP’ app, since Uber procures rides for private drivers who then drive passengers without the legally required authorisation.
The judge agreed with this point of view and made it clear that Uber could no longer offer rides using drivers without an authorised taxi licence. In its current form, the Uber service is anti-competitive. Since Taxi Deutschland is also implementing its app throughout Germany, the verdict applies to the entire country. While the verdict is not yet final, it can be carried out provisionally against a security deposit of €400,000.
Dieter Schlenker, chairman of Taxi Deutschland, already announced the immediate deposit of this sum, and Uber is no longer permitted to offer its UberPOP service in Germany.
Meanwhile, the U.S. company announced that it plans to appeal the decision. It will also continue to offer service in German cities as long as the decision has not been carried out. An alternative ridesharing service is also being developed that can be specifically adapted to German regulations.
The strategy of simply carrying on despite the ban is no surprise. The company is already behaving in a similar manner in many other countries where the app has also been banned. In these countries, the authorities have now adopted more severe measures. For example, at the beginning of the week the police and the authorities searched the premises of the Brussels Uber-office. They were looking for evidence that Uber was violating Belgian (tax)law with its ride hailing service Uber POP and others, and seized a number of documents. The same thing happened in France a few days later. This time, the Uber office in Paris received an unwelcome visit.
The situation in South Korea is even more serious. According to a report from ‘ZDnet’, two of the company’s executives were arrested in Seoul. The police are accusing them, some other employees and the drivers of having violated the applicable national transport laws.
In parallel with these incidences, Uber is also facing trouble inside the company. Uber CFO Brent Callinicos will be leaving the company. According to reports from several business portals, he claims that he would like to spend “more time with his wife and daughter”. Other business sources were speculating about preparations for an Uber-IPO. jh/wf
Cartoon: R. Löffler