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Brussels to introduce new taxi and Uber regulations before summer
Duelling demonstrations involving around 800 Uber vehicles and 120 taxis caused serious traffic jams on Thursday in central Brussels.
At issue was the decision of the Brussels government announced by minister-president Rudi Vervoort to apply strictly the 1995 Brussels ordinance on taxi services and car rental companies with drivers.
This stipulates that private hire-car companies, and therefore Uber drivers who circulate under this status, cannot use radio communication devices, including mobile phones, to do business, because these tools are reserved for taxis only.
Uber drivers gathered to protest on Boulevard Pacheco, which was closed to traffic, and then went to Vervoort’s office on Boulevard du Régent. This caused slowdowns on the inner ring. In addition, the Tervueren, Cinquantenaire and Loi tunnels were closed due to demonstrations.
Taxis, on the other hand, gathered in front of the Brussels parliament to encourage Vervoort to firmly maintain his position.
The Brussels majority appears divided over the ban on the use of smartphones by Uber drivers. Minister Sven Gatz said: "Rather than wanting to maintain the archaic rules of 1995, we would do better to wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court concerning the taxi and Uber sector, as the Brussels Court of Appeal explicitly requests."
Secretary of state Pascal Smet also denounced the Brussels position. "Banning smartphones and smart technologies in 2021 makes no sense," he said. "We should wait for the judgment of the Constitutional Court and in the meantime work on a new proposal."
At a government meeting, Vervoort made a commitment at the end of the discussions on the need to move quickly on the reform of the taxi and private-hire sector. The goal is to have a draft solution before the summer.