Technology

Uber hires lobbyist after German ban

Uber app Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Uber has been given a tough time across Europe by opponents

The car pick-up firm Uber has strengthened its lobbying team after its service was banned in Germany.

The firm confirmed it has hired Mark MacGann as head of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

A Frankfurt court recently ruled that it was not operating its "low cost" UberPop service legally. Uber has also been the subject of protests across European cities, including London.

But Uber vowed to continue operating and fight the German ruling.

Mr MacGann, who has previously held senior jobs with the lobbying firms Weber Shandwick, Brunswick and FIPRA, would be tasked with pushing through Uber's planned European expansion, the company confirmed.

Battle

According to his own LinkedIn profile, Mr MacGann has specialised in "challenging incumbents to gain market access for innovative and disruptive industrial ventures".

The firm has faced stiff opposition from cab drivers across the continent, who have complained that it competes unfairly.

The firm, which is backed by Google and Goldman Sachs, often offers a lower cost service than local cabs do but has been accused of sidestepping much of the regulation involved.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Barcelona cab drivers strike in protest at Uber in July this year

It says it simply connects drivers with passengers and calculates the fare based on GPS. But cab drivers say it is a meter by any other name, which they need to be licensed to use.

In June this year, protests took place in many European cities, including Berlin, Paris and London. And, in August, a French court demanded that Uber change how its driver invoice system worked, to meet local rules.

That was followed by actions in the German courts, the most recent battle taking place in Frankfurt.

There, the judge issued a summary judgment, placing a ban on Uber pending a full hearing. The firm could face up to a 250,000 euro ($327,840; £198,342) fine per trip if it ignores the restriction - as it has said it intends to do.

Expansion

Uber has stated its desire for rapid expansion in Germany. Only days before the German ban was ordered, it said it expected to double its size in the country by the end of the year.

Despite protests in London, the British authorities have provided lesser opposition, deciding not to pursue a case against Uber in June.

Uber is not alone in employing lobbyists to present its interests on a multinational level. However, the appointment of a lobbyist of more than two decades' experience indicates how seriously it is taking the challenges it currently faces in Europe.

The firm said it would release a more substantial statement on the appointment later on Monday.

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