Upon its introduction in 2009, the California-based chauffeur/taxi car company Uber has slowly taken marketshare away from taxi drivers in major cities across the world. It has led to a surge in these “black car” services, with new startups following suit, but the traditional and much more regulated taxi companies are beginning to fight back with road-blocking protests.
The latest protest took place in Germany on Wednesday as taxi drivers joined together to block major roadways in Berlin, Cologne and Hamburg.
Having an increase in competition isn’t the root cause for protest though. Regular taxi services and drivers must go through rigorous checks with expensive licensing costs. Companies like Uber and German counterpart Blacklane are exempt from meeting the same regulations. Without the added overhead, these startup companies have been able to come into the market offering substantially lower fares. Its a win for the consumer, but not so much for the taxi business.
Siegfried Liebesgesell, a Berlin-based taxi driver who has been in the industry for 35 years, spoke with The Local about his frustration and argued that it “has to be regulated. It has to be fair. It cannot go on like this anymore. We have to pay for all the costs and our licenses. They pay for nothing except their cars and petrol.”
Official taxi services in the major German cities are finding fewer and fewer customers in areas where there was always a need. With the expensive licensing costs to operate and fewer customers, these companies are fighting a battle that seems hopeless.