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Uber banned in Germany - again

A big blow to the contentious online taxi service after a German court has issued a sweeping ban and threatened crushing penalties for any violations. But Uber isn't expected to go down without a fight.

A German regional court on Wednesday imposed a nationwide ban on the controversial ride-sharing app Uber, saying that each violation was subject to a 250,000-euro ($264,000) fine.

The injunction targets the company's low-cost UberPop service, which connects customers with private, non-licensed drivers.

"We regret today's decision by the Frankfurt regional court to prevent Uber from contributing to better and cheaper individual mobility," Uber Germany General Manager Fabien Nestmann said outside the courtroom.

However, the company said its other services using professional limousine chauffeurs and licensed cab drivers would continue to operate.

"We will not give up on the German market: Our UberBLACK and UberTAXI services remain unaffected by today's judgment," Uber said in an emailed statement.

Fear of unfair competition

Explaining the ruling, presiding judge Joachim Nickel said UberPop broke German laws on commercial passenger transportation, siding with the plaintiff, German taxi operator group Taxi Deutschland.

The lobby group is just one of more than a dozen Europe-wide that has brought lawsuits against the US-based company, arguing that the service unfairly bypasses local licensing and safety regulations.

However, proponents argue that the service, which is often significantly cheaper than conventional cab fares, has injected some much-needed competition into the highly-regulated industry.

Police raid in Paris

Wednesday's verdict came amid French media reports that police had raided Uber's Paris headquarters, seizing emails, documents and smartphones used by Uber drivers. According to daily Le Monde, prosecutors had issued a warrant also related to the UberPop.

In a statement to tech news site The Verge, Uber described the raid as an "attempt at intimidation," adding that it planned to "vigorously defend the rights conferred upon it by EU law and the French Constitution."

The Frankfurt ruling marks the second time in less than a year that the court has banned Uber. In September, it handed down a preliminary injunction pending this week's final decision. However, just as it did the last time, Uber is also expected to appeal this verdict.

Founded in San Fransisco, Uber is active in over 40 countries and more than 200 cities worldwide. In Germany, Uber has been operating in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich.

pad/uhe (dpa, Reuters)

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