Absurd Germany Uber: Now working with official taxis / Taxi drivers more than happy

Difficult Relation: German Taxis and Uber. Here are Taxis in front of the highest Bavarian Court in Munich, Germany.
Image: netz-trends

It's almost absurd: For months, all you hear about is the ferocious discussion between the American taxi-via-app provider Uber and the official German taxi associations. Some cities even issued bans against Uber to stop Uber from providing private taxis to passengers via their taxi app. However, it looks like the tide has turned:

Germany's taxi drivers seem to be happy that Uber exists. Netz-trends.de ordered an Uber taxi in Berlin and heard surprising information from the taxi driver.

First things first: In Germany, Uber doesn't generally send black cars, as you might think from looking at the pictures on the Uber homepage, but the well-known normal white taxis, as we experienced.

After we had installed the Uber app on our smartphone and entered our credit card details we ordered an Uber taxi. Thanks to the app and the GPS signal we had activated, we could track in real time where the Uber taxi was and could estimate how many minutes it would take for the Uber taxi to arrive.

The taxi arrived after around seven minutes - very close to Uber's projected time. We were quite astonished when we saw a normal, white Berlin taxi. When we opened the doors, the taxi driver asked if our name was Thomas, since this was the name the Uber app had provided. He showed us our name on his smartphone by the windscreen.

Overcoming our initial surprise (we didn't realise our name would be displayed for the taxi driver), we said yes. Then we embarked on our taxi ride.

Berlin taxi driver: "extremely glad that Uber exists"

The taxi driver, a Turkish guy, told us, he's extremely glad that Uber can finally do business in Germany. He explained that he has had hardly any customers for months. Apart from the generally difficult economic situation in Europe, he gave the newly introduced minimum wage in Germany as a reason (€8.50/hour) which has left Germans feeling for months that taking a public taxi has become unaffordable. This can hardly be denied:

according to estimates, taxi prices in Germany have increased by 25% since January 1, 2015. If taking a taxi hasn't been a luxury beforehand, it has definitely become one now. Nowhere else in the world, a taxi ride is as expensive as it is in Germany - even New York City taxis are cheaper.

However, things are changing thanks to Uber, the taxi driver explained: in only two months, he has had between 200 and 300 customers via the Uber app. Around 80 percent of his Uber customers were Berlin tourists - most of them from the US, Great Britain, Australia, France or even Arabic countries who asked him for his taxi services via the app.

The taxi driver explained the fact that Berlin tourists often order a taxi via the Uber app: it is "easier". Quite often, tourists don't speak any German and the Uber app helps them order a taxi without any knowledge of German. They can also let the taxi driver know where to take them.

Paying the taxi driver also used to be a problem for many tourists in Germany if they don't speak German at all. Since Uber, as a matter of principle, processes payments for the taxi service via the centrally stored credit card, this is not a problem anymore.

Our Turkish taxi driver in Berlin doesn't only drive for Uber, but also for two other contracting companies: one is a private taxi company (which provides the car) and one is the German taxi app MyTaxi (by Intelligent Apps GmbH). According to their own data, Mytaxi has 10 million users and cooperates with 45,000 taxis.

Uber competitor Mytaxi not very well-liked by all taxi drivers

However, he's not very happy with Mytaxi, our taxi driver in Berlin says. On the one hand, he doesn't think their commission scheme is very attractive: apparently, MyTaxi offers different commission schemes to their drivers depending on how many trips the driver is willing to do for MyTaxi.

If you do a lot of taxi rides for MyTaxi, our Berlin taxi driver explains, you can receive up to 15 percent commission from MyTaxi. If you do less taxi rides, you only get 6 percent for example. Our taxi driver says he only receives 6 percent commission from MyTaxi. Whether this is MyTaxi's actual commission scheme, we are unable to say. In any case, one of our readers wrote that the commission scheme described by out taxi driver is not correct. In fact, MyTaxi's commission scheme apparently follows these rules (see commentary at the end of the text):

"Regarding MyTaxi, the described commission scheme is described completely wrong. It doesn't matter how many trips a taxi driver does for MyTaxi. Every participant can decide for themselves how much commission the participant is willing to pay to MyTaxi! An assignment is auctioned to the highest-bidding taxi driver for anywhere between 3 and 15%."

Irrespectively of the commission scheme, MyTaxi customers upset our taxi driver with the following: "Many don't pay and then I'm the one carrying the can," he claims and further recounts that he has frequently experienced that someone orders a taxi via MyTaxi, he arrives at the agreed location - and nobody is there. He would then have to bear the resulting costs as the taxi driver.

He explains that Uber deals with this problem better. Uber generally has the customer's data and will charge the customer's account a basic fee once the customer has ordered a taxi via Uber - no matter if the customer is present at the agreed location or not.

MyTaxi also offers digital payment to their customers - but customers don't have to. This is what we found in the app's description: "Forget cash, forget the paperwork - simply pay your taxi fare via the app. This gives you not only Miles & More points, but also a convenient receipt by e-mail."

Berlin test trip: Uber considerably less expensive than normal taxis

After a taxi ride around 20 minutes, we have arrived at our destination. The price for our trip was around 15 Euros. This is probably five Euros less than what we would have paid for a normal taxi. But wait, this isn't quite correct: we did take a normal taxi, only one offering different fares - those cheap Uber fares.

We asked our taxi driver how many Berlin taxi drivers he thinks cooperate with Uber. He said that's difficult to estimate but they should be between 200 and 300. And most of those he knew are really happy with Uber. Apparently, he has never driven such an amount of passengers in his entire career as he has with Uber.

Uber themselves, however, don't seem to be content with the very low fares for taxi services in Germany, Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick recently explained in an interview with Britta Beeger and Martin Gropp for the major German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). Kalanick founded Uber in 2009 along with Garrett Camp in San Francisco, California, US.

He says that as long as driver are only legally allowed (editor's note: in Germany) to earn enough to stay below the minimum subsistence level, it's hard to get enough cars on the road. He further explains that prices of 35 Cents per kilometre are too unattractive for drivers and that this is currently a problem and makes is difficult for Uber to grow and innovate. However, he states that Uber want it to work and that they do everything to make it work.

Dashing the hopes of some German taxi providers who would like to see the American taxi service Uber disppear from the German taxi world, Travis Kalanick states that Uber has to wait and see which requirements German legislature lays down for Uber. Kalanick explains that Uber is prepared to compromise in many areas but they will not give up their business in Germany since this would not be in their customers' interest. He points out that there is great demand for Uber in Germany which continues to grow.

Taking netz-trends.de's experience as a basis, it could be said that Dieter Schlenker's statement, chairman of the Taxi Deutschland app, is not quite representative of Germany's taxi drivers' opinion.

He told the weekly newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) that there will be no negotiations with 'lawbreakers'. With 'lawbreakers', he seems to refer to the operators of Uber.

According to their own definition, Taxi Deutschland Servicegesellschaft für Taxizentralen eG is a cooperative union of taxi companies that has taken on the task of offering any kind of service that doesn't require approval for taxi companies all throughout Germany.

14 Comments: 14 Comments regarding the topic: . Feel free to leave your own comment!

(All comments were translated from German into English from netz-trends.de).

Write comment: Taxman, February 09, 2015, 20:58:00

haven't read such badly researched madness in a long time.

Firstly, the driver always drives for one company, namely the one providing the car. Secondly, there is the so-called fare zone. In this fare zone, the regulated fare is absolutely mandatory. If he really hasn't had any customers for months, it is virtually certain that his boss would have let go of him. Quality bullshit right there. Congratulations. What did Uber pay you? Or have you received a monthly pass for an establishment of your choice in exchange for this article?

Write comment: cabbi, February 09, 2015, 21:09:00

Anyone tried to do marketing for Uber? This is at least how this article reads that contains quite a number of mistakes.

For anyone who doesn't know yet, there's UberBlack, mostly black cars, where official chauffeur limousine service companies take taxi rides for Uber. Then there's UberPop where private drivers drive around people in their private vehicles for €0.35 per kilometre (currently in Berlin) or maybe for more money in other cities.

And, most recently, there's UberTaxi. The colour of a taxi isn't white, it's light ivory! Why would anyone drive for UberTaxi? Because Uber gives them €5 extra at the moment for every taken and carried out taxi ride! That works out at €1000 more in the taxi drivers pocket if he does 200 taxi rides. Who gets this money and do they pay tax on it?

Yes, taking a taxi in Germany isn't cheap but comparing it to cities like New York is entirely unjustified. For example, renting out taxis to independent drivers is forbidden in Germany and completely normal in New York. If a taxi company has to pay wages logic implies that the company has to offer its service at a higher cost. Even more so if there's a minimum wage!

Regarding MyTaxi, the described commission scheme is described completely wrong. It doesn't matter how many trips a taxi driver does for MyTaxi. Every participant can decide for themselves how much commission the participant is willing to pay to MyTaxi! An assignment is auctioned to the highest-bidding taxi driver for anywhere between 3 and 15%. The fact that passengers are not there anymore when the taxi arrives at the agreed location is completely normal in Berlin. The taxi company pays for fuel and wear and tear for this futile trip, not the taxi driver. The taxi drivers get their minimum wage!

Taxi fares are the same throughout Berlin no matter what company you choose, they don't really have anything to do with Uber. It might be possible, though, that money is paid and/or taken because of marketing activities.

Every taxi driver driving for Uber should ask themselves what would happen in regards to customers if various laws are changed and UberPop is allowed. Then many customers would be driven around by micro-freelancers in underinsured cars who make their car and their labour available to Uber for a net wage of €3 an hour and have to show up in a Netherlands court speaking English in case there are any legal disputes.

Uber wants to disrupt existing structures to control a market. They easily increase normal prices five-fold if there's higher passenger demand.

It's not so long ago that Kalanick complained about an "arsehole called taxi" and now they're baiting taxi drivers with extra money. One day, taxi drivers will have to pay Uber for their trips...

Write comment: Travis Bickle, February 10, 2015, 01:10:00

The price for our trip was around 15 Euros. This is probably five Euros less than what we would have paid for a normal taxi. But wait, this isn't quite correct: we did take a normal taxi, only one offering different fares - those cheap Uber fares. At €0.35 per kilometre the trip should have cost you €3.50 max. Why 15 Euros? Get your thinking done, then write your article! You're out of your depths by a long shot.

Write comment: Travis Bickle, February 10, 2015, 01:14:00

The trip should have cost €3.50 max according to the cheap Uber companion fare. Why 15.00? Apart from that, this driver is also subject to the German fare regulations! Dude, get your thinking done, then write your article!

Write comment: Der Kutscher, February 10, 2015, 07:26:00

I'm sorry but I haven't read such mad-brained bullshit in a long time. Wrong facts, speculations that suck the root, and so on, and so forth, any tabloid can do better than that. But what else can you expect when a "Franz Xaver" combines his intellectual crap with the ramblings of "a Turkish guy" to form such a grammatical and orthographical catastrophe.

Write comment: Jörn Napp, February 10, 2015, 10:45:00

The quality of this article is indeed shocking! If this is the persistent writing style on this website I would like to express my deepest condolences to the publisher!

As one of the previous commentators said, neither the author nor the "Turkish guy" have understood MyTaxi's commission scheme. A year ago, I organised a demonstration against their scheme because I and almost all other drivers were rather unhappy about it but it's notwhere near as bad as the one Uber has forced upon their drivers. I can only recommend to everybody to have a look at the numerous forums and Facebook pages of the Uber drivers (English required) to form their own opinion about the actual situation.

Write comment: Möööp, February 10, 2015, 16:58:00

Lol, looks like Uber has fired their PR agency since Google announced that they'd rather take their money elsewhere. Uber is currently making losses in the millions and the taxi industry will only be subsidised for a limited amount of time so that the driver doesn't have to pay a commission fee - otherwise the business location Germany will have to close down.

And because Berlin taxi drivers are not completely stupid and support Uber almost none of them actually particpates.

My prediction: 3 - 6 months and Uber will have to stop subsidising.

Write comment: cabbi, February 10, 2015, 17:58:00

If you had actually read it properly, YOU would have realised that he didn't hire UberPop for €0.35 per km but a regular taxi. There are indeed differences in prices! This was about a taxi ride provided by UberTaxi, not by UberPop!

Write comment: B. Zitschke, February 11, 2015, 09:03:00

Dear Mr Franz,

your article leaves me quite confused. I would be very pleased if we could clear these confusions in a conversation. If you are genuinely interested please contact me via the email address provided. Regards, Burkhard Zitschke

Write comment: The Editors, February 11, 2015, 22:36:00

Dear Mr Zitschke, thank you very much for your comment. Please use this comment function to further express your views on content. Thank you for your understanding. Kind regards, The Editors

Write comment: elmy66, February 14, 2015, 03:28:00

The described behaviour of the "taxi driver" is a clear violation of the laws on passenger transportation. He obviously transported persons for remuneration within his mandatory driving area. It doesn't seem like he used the taximeter, so that's a clear violation of the fare obligation. Such "patients" - I don't want to call them colleagues - need to be reported to the police and taken out of business.

Write comment: The Editors, February 14, 2015, 11:41:00

The taximeter was running but a different amount was calculated since this particular service was carried out for Uber. Believing the comments submitted so far, Uber, in Berlin, seems to make up the difference to the amount on the taximeter through subsidies. This is not to the detriment of consumers.

Write comment: Jule Paasch, February 16, 2015, 15:32:00

What did Uber pay you for this article? Reading so much crap - unbelievable.

Write comment: Taxman, February 18, 2015, 20:14:00

You can write about it as much as you want it will never be beautiful news. I have to admit I'm not very familiar with the operational regulations in Germany but as far as I know they're very similar to ours. The described taxi ride would be a clear violation of applicable laws here in Vienna. Publishing this so openly is almost suicide. I do realise that Uber doesn't give a toss but our colleague here should start using his brain. ;-)

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