The city of Cologne charges companies that set up e-scooters in the city area a special fee of between 85 and 130 euros per vehicle. The companies concerned have taken legal action against this fee – without success.
Special use statutes of the city of Cologne
Last year, the city of Cologne decided to take action against e-scooters, which cause considerable nuisance in the city area. In the course of this, the city council primarily amended the city’s special use statutes. The fees for companies that lend out e-scooters were thus set at 85 to 130 euros per vehicle per year. Fees are also charged for rental bicycles and car-sharing cars; however, these are significantly lower than those charged for set-up e-scooters.
The special use statutes also served as the basis for additional fees of up to 450,000 euros charged by rental companies. The city referred to the considerable impairment to the general public that would result from e-scooters that were not properly parked.
Multiple lawsuits against special use statutes
The companies Bolt, LimeBike, Tier and Voi then went to the Cologne Administrative Court to defend themselves against the new special use statutes. Tier also filed an emergency application. In their lawsuits, the companies primarily argued that the high fees were aimed at effectively preventing the availability of rentable e-scooters in the city. Furthermore, they invoked bicycle and local mobility laws that apply in NRW. In their opinion, the city’s actions are not compatible with the objectives of this law.
The court did not follow the argumentation of the e-scooter companies. In its decision, it rather pointed out that e-scooters repeatedly led to obstructions on footpaths and cycle paths – and that significantly higher fees compared to rental bicycles were therefore justified. In the case of the latter, the considerable obstructions to other road users could not be observed. In addition, bicycle and car sharing services make a significantly greater contribution to reducing motorized individual traffic than e-scooters. The court did not consider it proven that the new charging system would lead to the de facto disappearance of e-scooter services. Furthermore, it stated that the Bicycle and Local Mobility Act ultimately does not serve to protect individual business models and consequently cannot be used as a justification against high fees for e-scooter rentals.
Consequences for the rest of the country
The decision from Cologne could lead the way for other municipalities in Germany. Düsseldorf, Münster, Frankfurt am Main and Tübingen have also already charged high fees for e-scooters set up in urban areas. If the ruling stands, many other cities could follow suit – which could have an impact on the business model with e-scooters. First, however, it remains to be seen whether the plaintiff companies will appeal or file a complaint. If so, the case would be heard again by the Higher Administrative Court in Münster.