German judge set to rule on Uber injunction appeal on Tuesday

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 16, 2014 6:01 AM

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The Frankfurt judge who issued an injunction against online taxi service Uber from operating a novel car-sharing service in Germany appeared ready to rebuff an appeal on Tuesday by the firm, which has argued it should not be subject to taxi rules.

In opening remarks at a hearing on the appeal, Frankfurt Regional Court Judge Frowin Kurth said: "The preliminary view of the court is that the reasons behind the temporary injunction are still valid".

The judge said he would issue a ruling on Uber's appeal of his preliminary injunction at 8:30 a.m. EDT.

Kurth said in the hearing that he considered Uber to compete directly with taxi operators, rebuffing Uber's position that it runs an online marketplace connecting drivers and passengers and thus is not subject to taxi regulations.

German law allows drivers to pick up passengers without a commercial license if they charge no more than the operating cost of the trip. As the middleman connecting drivers and passengers, Uber stands to take a cut of any charges and the court issued an injunction against the service.

In the hearing on Tuesday, attorneys representing both sides argued over what operating costs ride-sharing drivers are allowed to charge by German law.

The court first granted a temporary injunction on Sept. 1 against Uber from using its Uberpop mobile phone app to connect drivers to potential ride-sharing passengers, saying Uber's network of volunteer drivers lacked the commercial licenses needed to charge passengers for rides.

Each infraction of the court's injunction carried fines of up to 250,000 euros ($323,775). Uber quickly appealed the ruling, leading to Tuesday's hearing.

Four-year-old Uber, which allows users to summon taxi-like services on their smartphones, has faced regulatory scrutiny and court injunctions from its early days, even as it has expanded rapidly into roughly 150 cities around the world.

The lawsuit, which pits German taxi operators against the fast-growing San Francisco-based start-up, has highlighted Germany's mounting unease over the impact of digital technology on established businesses and institutions.

(Reporting by Eric Auchard and Sabine Wollrab; Editing by Mark Potter)