Private ride-sharing app Uber has rolled out with great success in dozens of large cities throughout the U.S. and internationally (over 100 at last count), but its smartphone-enabled growth comes at the expense of the highly regulated taxi industry. Not surprisingly, Uber is facing legal challenges in many of its markets as municipal governments and courts are increasingly willing to listen to the complaints of the incensed taxi and limousine industry.
Recent Uber ban by Brussels court
Earlier this month, a court in Brussels ruled that the Uber app contravenes fair trade laws and banned Uber vehicles. According to the ruling, cars in Brussels that use the Uber app will be subject to a 10,000 euro ($13,820) fine when the ruling takes effect.
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Reaction to the Uber ban
European Union Commissioner Neelie Kroes expressed surprise and indignation regarding the court ruling. “This decision is not about protecting or helping passengers,” Kroes, who is in charge of promoting technology and innovation in Europe, she wrote of the ban on her website yesterday. “If Brussels authorities have a problem with Uber, they should find a way to help them comply with standards.”
Kroes also wrote that a ban on Uber was “crazy”, and accomplishes nothing more than protecting a “cartel”.
Uber spokesperson Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty said in an interview that the company’s “UberPop” product in Brussels isn’t the same as professional services because it’s designed for individuals who drive their own cars and just pick up passengers occasionally.
“We’re very committed to finding ways so that our product stays in the city,” Gore-Coty said. “We’ve had a lot of support from people in the city.”
Recent French legal dispute
Uber has gone through a similar situation in France, where President Francois Hollande imposed a 15-minute pickup delay on Uber and other private car services in an executive ruling. Hollande’s decision was, however, nullified by the French constitutional court in February. Following the decision, Parisian taxi drivers blocked traffic at airports in protest over private ride services like Uber, which are not required to have a 200,000 euro taxi permit.