London anti-Uber taxi protest: June 11, 2014 (photo by Flickr user David Holt)Enlarge Photo
As we've mentioned before, European cab drivers hate Uber. They've shouted, they've protested, they've clogged city streets, but they haven't done much to halt the spread of the world's favorite ad hoc taxi network -- until now, that is.
According to Mashable, cab drivers in Germany recently took Uber to court. That court has now put a substantial speed bump in the company's path and potentially slowed its rush to annex the Continent.
Uber's troubles began in August, when a court in Berlin ruled that the start-up couldn't operate in the densely populated capital city. Late last week, a court in Frankfurt reached a similar conclusion, but its ruling prevents Uber from setting up shop anywhere in the country. (FWIW, the Frankfurt case was brought by Taxi Deutschland, an association of cab drivers that, not coincidentally, also has an app to pair riders with taxis.)
Both decisions revolved around concerns for passenger safety. The Frankfurt case in particular cited Germany's Passenger Transport Act, which requires that cab drivers acquire commercial licenses from cities in which they operate. Uber, however, relies on everyday motorists to share their rides with needy passengers, regardless of whether those motorists carry commercial licenses.
The good news -- at least for Uber fans -- is that the injunction issued in Frankfurt is preliminary and temporary. A full hearing in front of the court will determine once and for all whether Uber can move forward with its plans for world German domination.
The bad news is that getting around the Passenger Transport Act will be difficult unless Uber hires only licensed taxi drivers in their off hours (which seems unlikely).
The worse news is that all this is happening at the precise moment that Uber is seeing a surge in demand from consumers in Europe. If Uber can't satisfy that demand soon, others (like Taxi Deutschland) will undoubtedly step in to fill the gap, which might shut Uber's window of opportunity.