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22nd Jul 2018

Uber to appeal decision to halt Brussels ops

  • UberPop has been ordered to stop operating in Brussels after a complaint from the city's top taxi firm (Photo: Arild Nybo)

The popular peer-to-peer car-hailing service Uber will appeal a Belgian court decision to shut down the unlicensed version of its controversial app in Brussels.

A spokesperson from the US-based company told Reuters on Thursday (24 September) that they would appeal a legal decision that requires them to end the Brussels service within 21 days.

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Uber allows people without taxi permits to sell rides via mobile phone app UberPop.

The court delivered its verdict on Thursday following a complaint from taxi operator, Taxi Vert. The court decision does not affect the premium version of the app known as UberX that relies on professional drivers.

Traditional taxi services in Brussels last week blocked streets as part of a broader protest against Uber, which they say is unfairly undercutting their business.

Filip Nuytemans, general manager of Uber Belgium, said in response to the protests that laws "should be adapted to allow competition and innovation".

Unlike taxi drivers, UberPop drivers are not licensed. Uber fares are also cheaper and its app provides on-the-spot service that allows users to estimate rates before hailing a vehicle.

The latest court verdict means Belgium could join France, Germany, Italy, and Spain where UberPop is outlawed.

The company lost an appeal in France after the French constitutional court upheld its ban on Thursday.

The Belgian court had already issued an injunction in April 2014. That verdict, which went largely ignored, threatened Uber drivers with a €10,000 fine for every pick-up attempt.

Neelie Kroes, who was EU Commissioner for the digital agenda at the time, said the court decision was "not about protecting or helping passengers – it's about protecting a taxi cartel".

The European Commission launched a competition probe over the summer, following a complaint from Uber that Germany's laws on taxis violate EU law.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg is in the process of determining whether the Uber app is a transport service or a digital service.

The verdict could have large ramifications. If the judges declare Uber is a transport service, then company would fall under tougher national regulations.

A judgement is expected by autumn 2016.

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