Ride app Uber gets respite in German city of Hamburg

DUESSELDORF, Germany, July 25 Fri Jul 25, 2014 10:31am EDT

DUESSELDORF, Germany, July 25 (Reuters) - Uber, whose smartphone app summons rides at the touch of a button, won a new lease of life in the German city of Hamburg on Friday when a court suspended a ban imposed by local regulators.

Hamburg traffic authorities told Uber earlier this week to stop operating in the northern port city on the grounds that its drivers lacked passenger transport licenses, one of a number of challenges to the San Francisco-based company from regulators and traditional taxi services across the globe.

Uber retaliated with a complaint against the ban and a Hamburg court on Friday allowed it to continue operations while the court deliberates on the merits of the case.

The process could take several weeks and may still result in a ban, a court spokesman said. Uber said in a statement on Friday it welcomed the court's decision.

Uber Technologies Inc, valued at $18.2 billion just four years since its 2010 launch, calls itself a platform connecting private car owners with people seeking a ride, not a commercial car service. Uber Pop customers order and pay for rides using its smartphone application instead of having to hail one on the street.

The service has touched a raw nerve by threatening to open up a traditionally tightly controlled and licensed market.

Uber and similar companies have faced lawsuits from taxi companies hoping to keep out the competition in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Taxi drivers last month created traffic chaos in London and Paris when they protested against the app, and South Korea's capital Seoul came out this week saying it wanted to impose a ban. German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily said on Friday Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich are also considering a ban. ($1 = 0.7428 Euros) (Reporting by Nicola Rotscheroth; Writing by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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