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Uber drivers will have to find find a new short term alternative

Uber is banned in Brussels from Friday

Uber is banned in Brussels from Friday

The controversial court decision sends some 2,000 drivers to a spontaneous protest in the Belgian capital

Yesterday, the Brussels Court of Appeals ruled that drivers can no longer use the Uber app to provide transport services on the market – a decision based on a 2015 ruling banning the service UberPop. The decision will make 2,000 drivers effectively unemployed from this Friday, as banning the app will make finding customers impossible.

Today, thousands of drivers blocked key roads in the Belgian capital to protest the decision. In an official statement, the Uber company called this the result of outdated regulations and a government that promised reforms but failed to deliver.

Uber services are against the law

Uber’s pilot project in Brussels launched in 2014 and it was called UberPop. Essentially, it was a car-sharing service, where individuals could sign up to drive people for free. However, in 2015 the Belgian courts ruled that the service was not legal and issued a cease order against the UberPop app.

Since then, the American company has been able to find a foothold in Brussels by only hiring divers with a FVO/LVC license. That is the same type of license that limousine drivers hold as it allows the hiring of drivers operating private vehicles.

The Brussels Court of Appeals decided to double down though and stated that the 2015 decision also applies to the normal Uber app. Crucially, this does not mean that drivers using private vehicles for hire is illegal as a practice, the problem is the Uber app itself.

In practice, however, this means that starting 6 PM on Friday, 26 November, some 2,000 drivers will have no way to find customers in Brussels. The company has stated that the decision will result in the drivers’ loss of opportunity to generate income.

Reforms are coming, but maybe they are not to everyone’s taste

The company levied its criticism on the local government as, according to Uber, outdated regulations from 1995, not accounting for smartphones, and a failure to reform the sector are the root causes of the legal debacle. Crucially, the local government did present a draft Taxi Plan back in September.

That Plan is based on similar legislation from Flanders that makes ride-hailing services like Uber similar to traditional taxis. Importantly, services that have fluctuating rates based on demand, such as Uber and Heetch will be allowed to keep that feature up. There is one caveat though, there will be a minimal rate, so these services are barred from using price gouging to facilitate unfair competition.

Another crucial difference between limousine licensed services and taxis is that traditional taxis will be entitled to parking spaces and allowed to use bus lanes. Drivers with private vehicles will only be able to pick up customers via the app.

The bill also suggests the introduction of a cap on limousine licensed drivers, similar to that of taxis. Importantly, the plan is not finalised yet and the government is hoping to first consult with the private sector in order to find the best solutions.

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