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Antwerp deregulates taxi sector, abandoning fixed prices
The city of Antwerp has scrapped its taxi regulations, which opens the way for alternative taxi services such as Uber. The change also deregulates price controls so that taxi companies are free to charge whatever rates they want.
Deregulation also means that there is no longer a cap on the number of taxis operating in the port city. According to mobility city councillor Koen Kennis (N-VA), this will allow more flexibility in the sector and encourage competitive rates, which is good for the customer.
The sector itself is concerned about a price war and labour violations. “We had hoped for a set minimum and maximum price at the very least, in order to prevent underpricing,” Koen Van Oorschot of the city’s taxi association told VRT. “If there are 10 taxis sitting at Central Station, every driver can just name a price. That’s inconceivable.”
Deregulating taxi services also opens the door to international competition, such as Uber. “They profit off setting their prices so low that everyone else gets pushed out of the market,” said Van Oorschot. “And then they push the prices way up.”
Van Oorschot is also dismayed by the timing of the decision, during the coronavirus exit strategy. “We already have hardly any work right now. All of the other local sectors are getting support, but with us it’s just the opposite. We feel completely abandoned.”
Kennis told VRT that the sector is “living in the past” and needs to modernise but resists this at every turn. “This move will force the sector to be more digital-friendly and more flexible,” he said. “And everyone will still have to conform to labour laws.”
The ability for municipal councils to end price controls is based on a regional decision by the government of Flanders. Much of the decisions regarding taxi regulation now sit with city governments.