Restrictive transportation rules have hindered the ability for ride-hailing companies to offer their services in Germany for years. The coalition government now wants to change that.
Conservative Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) wants to make it easier for companies like Uber to offer their services in Germany and traditional taxi companies aren't happy about it.
Uber first launched in Germany in 2014, but a string of court rulings and the country's restrictive transportation laws have limited it and similar companies from offering their ride-hailing services.
In a white paper published on Monday, the Transport Ministry proposed legal changes to inject more competition into the transportation sector.
Chief among them is scrapping a rule that requires private hire drivers to return to a headquarters after every drop-off. The "obligation to return" — which doesn't apply to taxi drivers — also forbids ride-hailing drivers from accepting new customers during the ride back.
Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer wants to get rid of rules that protect taxi companies from ride-hailing competition
The paper also proposes getting rid of a ban on pooling, which would allow ride-hailing drivers to pick up and drop off additional customers who are traveling on the same route.
Taxis worry about 'existence'
The Association of German Taxis and Rental Car Services (BZP) quickly denounced the plans as "unilaterally in favor of Uber and other similar services at the expense of taxis."
BZP's managing director, Thomas Grätz, told the DPA news agency that changes to the "obligation to return" rule would threaten the sector's "very existence."
The association said it would hold a demonstration against the changes in front of the Transport Ministry building in Berlin on Thursday.
Dieter Schlenker, the chief executive of Taxi Deutschland, a cooperative, said the changes could lead to more New York City-style congestion in major German cities.
Read more: Germany slowly overcomes its Uber phobia
Consumers want 'flexibility'
Germany's leading consumer group, the Voice of the Consumer (vzbv), has welcomed the changes, saying they would inject "flexibility" into the German transportation market.
"The taxi industry and public transport services do not adequately meet the changing demands of consumers," vzbv expert Marion Jungbluth told the Handelsblatt newspaper.
Any changes should however protect the consumer and the employees of new transportation services, she said.
The coalition government of conservatives (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) is expected to discuss the white paper and publish a full proposal in the next several months.
The parties agreed to reform the sector in their coalition agreement last year. Many lawmakers see a precedent for reform in the 2013 liberalization of the long-distance bus sector.