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Legal challenge greets Uber's debut in Denmark

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KAI PFAFFENBACH/Scanpix
11:09 CET+01:00
In the midst of a PR crisis in the United States, the alternative taxi concept Uber takes to the streets of Copenhagen – and is immediately greeted with a police complaint.
The San Francisco-based Uber, which allows customers to order vehicles for hire and ridesharing services, launched in Copenhagen on Wednesday to no shortage of headlines and controversy. 
 
“Everyone in Copenhagen can now download our app and use our service. We've really looked forward to getting underway,” Uber’s Nordic director, Jo Bertram, told financial daily Børsen
 
But the news of a new major player in the taxi industry has the old guard vowing to fight. 
 
Dansk Taxi Råd, a business lobby group for the taxi industry that previously fought against the app-based service Drivr in Aarhus, said it would go all out to stop Uber’s entry into the Copenhagen market. 
 
“We will protest to all of the relevant authorities: the taxi board, the police, the Danish Transport Authority and the Transport Ministry,”  the head of Dansk Taxi Råd, Trine Wollenberg, told Børsen. 
 
 
By mid-morning on Wednesday, the Danish Transit Authority had filed a police complaint against the company. 
 
“Based on the available evidence, we believe that Uber violates passenger laws – both with their limousine service and their ride-sharing programme Uber Pop,” Transit Authority spokesman Mads Grundelund Gerlach told Børsen.
 
“If you offer a limousine service, you need permission from the municipality. If you don’t have that, it is illegal. In regards to the ride-sharing programme, we consider it on par with a taxi service. So if the vehicles don’t have a taxi licence, it is illegal,” he added. 
 
Uber plans to offer two services in Copenhagen: Uber Black, in which customers are picked up by a chauffeur-driven luxury car, and Uber Pop, in which private vehicle owners drive customers in their own cars. 
 
According to the company, the former will cost around 20 percent more than a typical cab ride in Copenhagen while the latter will be significantly less expensive than current market prices. 
 
To begin with, the company said that Uber Pop would be limited to a six-month trial in which only licenced chauffeurs will be allowed to participate. 
 
Existing taxi drivers say that the Uber Pop service creates “unfair competition” if Uber’s drivers and vehicles aren’t required to live up to the same requirements as others in the taxi business, which Børsen describes as one of the most thoroughly-regulated industries in Denmark. 
 
“Uber’s entry will create trouble in the city. The taxi branch will not be able to function with them on the streets. They will create a huge under-the-table economy that will be completely impossible to oversee,” Copenhagen taxi driver Hendrik Larsen told Børsen. 
 
Uber has already led to confrontations in cities such as Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Berlin and its entry into Copenhagen comes in the midst of a brewing controversy in the United States.

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Emil Michael, the company’s senior vice president of business, made comments at a swanky Manhattan dinner event that suggested that the company might consider hiring a team of professionals to dig up dirt on journalists who write negative stories on Uber. 
 
He later apologised for the comments, which he said were made at an off-the-record event. 
 
“The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner — borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for — do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them,” he said in a statement. 
 
Uber was launched in 2009 and is currently operating in 47 countries. In neighbouring Germany, the company has faced strong legal challenges and was banned both on the national level and in Berlin. The national ban has since been overturned
 
Uber did not respond to The Local's requests for a comment. 

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