Kroes calls on Uber and Germany to enter negotiations

Vice President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes
Pictured: Vice President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes Source: EC

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29 September 2014 | 0

European Commission Vice President and Digital Commissioner Neelie Kroes has battled online giants over privacy and the NSA over cyberspying now says it’s time for German regulators to start talking with Uber.

Uber arrived in Germany last year, offering its limo-for-hire service and an equivalent to Uber X called UberPop, which pairs riders with private cars.

But the going got tough this year when regulators banned Uber from operating in Berlin after a complaint from the local Taxi Association, and a nationwide ban followed in August. The nationwide ban was reversed in September, but courts in Berlin and Hamburg reinstated bans on Friday.

“You remember Groundhog Day?” Kroes tweeted, referring to the movie in which a character relives the same day over and over again.

“That is what Germany and Uber reminds me of. It is time for some flexibility and dialogue. Bans will NOT work!”

On the face of it, the court bans deal with similar complaints: that Uber’s drivers are not professionals and that the cars are not properly insured. But the dispute boils down to a tug of war between taxi operators, which have had a monopoly for decades and faced little pressure to innovate, and a company that is keen to upset the status quo and has the money to do it.

Kroes has also criticised a Brussels court decision this year that prohibited Uber from operating in Belgium.

“Are they serious? What sort of legal system is this?” she wanted to know, after the court threatened fines of €10,000 for each pick-up made by drivers not licensed taxi operators.

“Slamming the door in Uber’s face doesn’t solve anything,” she said at the time.

Martyn Williams IDG News Service

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