Uber is no stranger to legal battles, but the tough-negotiating startup appears to be making a rare concession in Germany. The ride-sharing company will pay the government fees for its drivers in the country to obtain commercial driver's licenses, according to a report in German business magazine Wirtschafts Woche. Uber's German chief, Fabien Nestmann, was quoted saying that the company will pay the €100 to €200 cost for a license. He added, "We will also pay the €150 to €200 it would cost our partners to have the Chamber of Commerce license them as taxi companies."
The news comes just over a week after a Frankfurt district court banned the company's low-cost Uberpop service across the country. The court ruled that, per German law, Uber's drivers were required to obtain commercial licenses. In Nestmann's comments to Wirtschafts Woche, the executive explained that Uber would start a new low-cost service in Germany this summer, likely called Uber X, that would comply with the commercial license regulations.
Uber has fought hard to avoid costly commercial licenses
Uber has long maintained that drivers for its low-cost programs like Uber X and Uberpop don't require commercial licenses. These drivers typically use their own vehicles, unlike drivers in the standard Uber (or "Uber Black") service, who are professionals connected with taxi firms and commission-approved vehicles. Commercial licenses can be costly and difficult to obtain, and since Uber X drivers don't work for licensed taxi operators on the side, in regions like Germany they can also be required to register themselves as a private taxi company. Such companies have a whole host of complications, like expensive insurance obligations and complex regulations — that's why Uber has always called itself a technology company, not a taxi operation.
In the past Uber has seen government efforts to mandate commercial licenses as a threat to its popular Uber X services. Earlier this year, both Uber and competitor Lyft vehemently opposed a California DMV ruling that mandated commercial plates. The DMV's decision was then quickly reversed. Meanwhile, just a few days ago, Uber's offices in Paris were raided by police following a ruling that its Uberpop service was illegal because its drivers didn't hold chauffeur licenses. In Germany, Uber has vowed to appeal the commercial license ruling that resulted in the ban, but today's report suggests the company is ready to swallow the license fees if it must in order to keep its low-cost service on the roads in Germany.
Verge Video Archives: Will Cars Ever Drive Themselves?