Uber to shutter most of its service in Belgium tomorrow after court ruling

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Uber will halt its ride-hailing service in much of Belgium following a court ruling on Wednesday that overturned a 2015 order banning its P2P UberPOP service for even providing its ride-hailing service to professional drivers. does cover.

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Uber told us it is studying the details of the decision to decide whether to appeal against the decision of the country’s highest court.

The move comes even after the temporary suspension of Uber’s service in Brussels in September — an action the tech giant called “extraordinary and unprecedented” it was only taking steps to protest a lack of reform in rules that bar drivers from using smartphones.


Following the decision of the Brussels Appeal Court this week, drivers of private hire vehicles have also been blocking a major tunnel in the capital of Belgium.

In a statement on Friday’s shutdown, Uber’s country chief, Laurent Schlitz, once again attacked the Belgian government for not delivering a reform it is lobbying for, writing: “This decision will be taken on smartphones. This was done on the basis of old rules written in earlier times, which the government has promised and failed to reform in the last seven years.

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To bloomberg, which previously reported Uber’s shutdown will not apply to the small number of drivers who have a license in the Flemish region of the country – and will therefore still be allowed to use the app.

Uber confirmed that the decision of the Court of Appeal affects only drivers with a Brussels license.

In the statement, Slits said the tech giant is “deeply concerned” about the 2,000 holders of LVC licenses (aka rental cars with driver’s licenses) who it said will “lose their ability to generate income”. [via Uber’s platform] From Friday”.

That phrase – “generate earnings” – refers to the fact that Uber does not directly hire drivers in Belgium; Instead it classifies them as independent contractors. It therefore cannot claim that 2,000 ‘jobs’ are about to expire because it does not provide employment contracts to LVC drivers in the first place.

“We urge the government to move swiftly to forever reform the taxi and LVC sector so that drivers can continue to work to provide for their families,” Slits said.

in the back procession The local government in Brussels banned Uber drivers from taking rides via smartphones and geolocation.

Uber drivers in the city have since been operating in a legal gray zone – where they risk sanctions if they continue to drive using its app. However the company suggests mixed messages have been given to drivers, claiming that officials are sometimes telling drivers in private that they can continue driving.

An Uber spokesperson called the government’s March order “incorrect” – pointing out that it promised to reform the law before the summer. To ReutersIn September a draft law to reform the rules was prepared by the Belgian government. But, according to Uber, the entire region is yet to see the text.

Uber suggested there is widespread support for a 1995 rule reform in Belgium – not only from LVC drivers who serve customers through its platform, but also from traditional taxi firms.

However local taxi firms in Brussels have their own reform ideas – and they have also said they are willing to hunt down Uber drivers to address the taxi drivers shortage.

Recently a sector spokesperson told taxipro There is a shortage of 600+ taxi drivers in the capital which can be filled by LVC holders who are driving for Uber.

“The big advantage is that we offer a solution for these Uber drivers,” Sam Bouchal told the publication in September. [translated to English via Google Translate], adding that Uber drivers could be offered permanent contracts, and adding: “We’re kicking them out of illegality.”

Bouchel also told TaxiPro that the taxi sector wanted to avoid what he called “a social massacre”.

Concerns over gig working conditions have been a burning topic across Europe for years, leading to a number of legal challenges – and in 2017 Europe’s top court ruled that Uber is a transport service and therefore not merely dodging local taxi regulations. can give.

In the UK, Uber was recently forced to recognize drivers as workers after losing a long line of employment challenges in the country’s Supreme Court.

However, in Belgium – a major center of power for the European Commission – the ride-hailing giant is lobbying for favorable changes to the law to lubricate the engines of its platform business.

Uber is lobbying the commission to address ride-hailing regulations in the block’s single market in the coming times urban mobility infrastructure – which the EU executive has said seeks to support the development of urban transport systems that are “safe, accessible, inclusive, affordable, smart, resilient and emissions-free”.

Uber’s hope here is that EU lawmakers will try to enforce rules that override city-level rules – setting up a pan-EU enabled framework for ride-hailing services that would mean This local authority may ignore the demands.

However the commission has also said it wants urban mobility infrastructure to tackle “transportation pollution and overcrowding” – so it is unclear whether removing regulatory barriers to ride-hailing will be anything but counterproductive on that front. .

Cars are the least efficient way to move people around dense urban environments, given how much space they require and relatively few people in a car versus a train, bus, cycling, scootering, walking etc. How can it be transported? The rise of micromobility has also fueled the range of car options available – so the arguments in favor of cars are increasingly shrinking in cities.

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted many European cities to shift their focus to making road infrastructure more pedestrian and locally focused, as well as implementing policies that deliberately reduce car micro-mobility. took advantage of the rise of Simply put, cleaner air and more vibrant local streets (and school bike train) is difficult to argue against.

While Brussels has not been at the forefront of those developments, the city has been try to reduce the number of cars on its notorious overcrowding, pollution-staining roads in recent years. So the Belgian government may have reason to stop and consider the effects of any ride-hailing reforms.

In parallel, the European Commission is working on another legislation initiative – which seeks to improve conditions for platform workers across the bloc, responding to high levels of concern over factors such as lack of job security and uncertain earnings .

Uber has also been busy lobbying on that front – and has been accused of pushing EU lawmakers to lower standards for platform workers, with critics saying it seeks to replicate its success in reversing the California law. Trying that sought to classify gig workers as employees.

So the street-level fight for Europe’s social contract is very real.

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