Monday, April 20, 2015

Berlin Says “NEIN!” to Uber

Jonah Engler - Uber

Uber has been banned in Berlin. Officially this time. Last year the company challenged a ruling in German court that argued the ride-sharing service did not comply with German taxi-service laws. The appeal failed in Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Appeals Tribunal, sealing the fate of Uber in Germany.

Uber has faced similar challenges in many markets. Sometimes they win, others they lose. At the center of most issues are two main points. Uber drivers are private citizens using their own cars to carry customers, and, as such, these drivers don’t usually carry the same insurances and regulations as their more formal taxi service counterparts.

In the United States, Uber has faced these arguments and often won. The service is wildly popular, particularly in large cities, though it always runs afoul of the profitable and established taxi service. Most people can’t blame the taxi services for being frustrated. They assumed huge costs and risks while Uber drivers don’t necessarily have to carry any of these costs of doing business. Yes, they are independent and, thus, don’t enjoy many of the protections afforded taxi drivers, but given the relatively low costs of doing business, the profit is worth the risk.

In other European countries, Uber has faced not only legal challenges but also public protests from aggrieved taxi drivers. In each of these cases, Uber is not only being challenged by the aggrieved party but also cast into a public relations machine that demands an accounting. When they read about cases like this, most people are looking for “good guys” and “bad guys.” They want to know who to root for and who to root against. While both drivers are just trying to make a living, and both companies just want to make a profit, somebody has to be the antagonist in the narrative. Understanding that and addressing it is key to successful public relations.

Jonah Engler is a NYC based entrepreneur.

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