Ride-Hailing European Court to Decide on Uber Black in Germany

Germany's highest court has referred a case over Uber's luxury car line to Europe. German judges believe the Uber service violates competition laws.
Uber does not have many friends in Europe. Picture source: Reuters.

Germany's Federal Court of Justice believes US ride-hailing company Uber violates German competition laws with its luxury sedan service, also known as Uber Black. But the judges wants to make sure its decision doesn't contradict European regulations and has referred the case to the European Court of Justice, before they issue their final ruling.

Uber's Black service allows passengers to order drivers in luxury sedans via Uber's smartphone app. The company's traditional ride-hailing service, known in the US as UberX, which allows freelance drivers to pick up passengers in their personal car, had been suspended in Germany in 2015 after the company lost a series of court challenges.

The latest case against Uber's luxury offer had been brought forward by a Berlin taxi company. The court ruled that Uber Black had violated German competition law because it assigned rides to drivers and rental car companies directly, as opposed to sedan companies in general, which is permissible under German law.

An Uber spokeswoman told news agency Reuters that the verdict didn't affect the firm's operations in Germany, as Uber's sedan service was only operating in Munich, where it relies on a different operating system.

"The case therefore doesn't affect our current product but is about a way of working that we have applied in the past," the spokeswoman told the news agency.

Uber has faced an uphill battle in Europe, where its standard ride-hailing service, known as UberPop on the continent, was met with fierce resistance by taxi driver associations and encountered various lawsuits. Drivers in many European countries, among others in Germany, Finland, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands, face steep fines for operating unlicensed taxi services.

Cab drivers in France, where Uber's Pop service is in operation despite despite court fines, in 2014 violently attacked an Uber taxi at Paris' main airport and placed Paris on what they called a "lockdown" in protest against alleged unfair competition. They have since challenged the company in court.

The US company has also been slapped with a recent decision by the European Court of Justice, which ruled that Uber represents a transport service. Uber considers itself an application that merely connect drivers with interested passengers and says it does not have an employer relationship to its drivers.

Tina Bellon is an editor with Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: [email protected]