Uber shut down its Frankfurt office after just 18 months in operation

Travis kalanick
Uber CEO and cofounder Travis Kalanick. Steve Jennings / Getty Images

Uber has pulled back its operations in the German city of Frankfurt, according to The New York Times.

The company, now valued at $62.5 billion (£42.4 billion), shut its Frankfurt office in November after just 18 months in operation, The Times reported.

The retreat is said to have come after local licensed taxi drivers in the city refused to work with the American firm whose taxi app has now been used to facilitate over one billion journeys worldwide.

Uber’s relatively cheap UberPop service, similar to UberX in the United States, faced legal hurdles in Frankfurt and was eventually banned last March by German regulators.

Following the shutdown of UberPop, the company tried to recruit licensed taxi operators but they weren’t interested, according to The New York Times.

Uber’s withdrawal from Frankfurt is one of several retreats out of European cities by the San Francisco-headquartered firm in recent months.

Uber withdrew its service from Hamburg and Dusseldorf in November after less than two months in each of the German cities. It also stopped offering UberPop in Amsterdam recently.

Elsewhere in Europe, licensed taxi drivers in cities such Madrid and Paris are yet to settle with Uber, while regulators in London are considering new laws that could impact Uber’s operations in the UK capital.

Frankfurt is home to one of Europe’s leading financial centres and a relatively cosmopolitan population, making it a sensible city for Uber to operate in. In addition, Frankfurt also has a cap on the number of licensed taxis, with only 1,700 cars available, which isn’t always enough to meet demand.

But Uber failed to get to grips with German taxi laws, according to a German-based academic. “If you want to be successful in Germany, you have to understand the regulation,” Martin Fassnacht, a professor at the Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar, Germany, told The New York Times. “Uber should have taken that more seriously.”

Uber still operates licensed services in German cities like Berlin and Munich, albeit with licensed taxi drivers.

The six-year-old company claims that it could create thousands of new jobs in Germany if it is allowed to operate there freely.

Uber has asked the European Commission to intervene and an official European investigation into Germany’s ban on UberPop — along with similar rulings in France and Spain — is expected to be undertaken in 2016.

“Have we made mistakes? Absolutely,” Mark MacGann, Uber’s head of European policy, told The New York Times. “But the current system in Germany artificially protects incumbents who think they have the right to own the market.”

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