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Top EU official tells Uber and Germany: Start talking!

Top EU official tells Uber and Germany: Start talking!

Neelie Kroes takes to Twitter after the latest German court ban on Uber services

The European politician who has battled online giants over privacy and the NSA over cyberspying now says it's time for German regulators to start talking with Uber.

Uber arrived in Germany last year, offering its limo-for-hire service and an equivalent to Uber X called UberPop, which pairs riders with private cars.

But the going got tough this year when regulators banned Uber from operating in Berlin after a complaint from the local Taxi Association, and a nationwide ban followed in August. The nationwide ban was reversed in September, but courts in Berlin and Hamburg reinstated bans on Friday.

The back and forth appears to have frustrated Neelie Kroes, who is vice president of the European Commission and its digital commissioner.

"You remember Groundhog Day?" she wrote on Twitter, referring to the movie in which a character relives the same day over and over again.

"That is what Germany and Uber reminds me of. It is time for some flexibility and dialogue. Bans will NOT work!"

Uber had no comment on her remarks and German regulators couldn't immediately be reached.

On the face of it, the court bans deal with similar complaints: that Uber's drivers are not professionals and that the cars are not properly insured. But as in the U.S., the dispute really boils down to a tug of war between taxi operators, which have had a monopoly for decades and faced little pressure to innovate, and a company that is keen to upset the status quo and has the money to do it.

Kroes has also criticized a Brussels court decision this year that prohibited Uber from operating in Belgium.

"Are they serious? What sort of legal system is this?" she wanted to know, after the court threatened fines of €10,000 (US$12,700) for each pick-up made by drivers who are not licensed taxi operators.

"Slamming the door in Uber's face doesn't solve anything," she said at the time.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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