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Uber to extend services in Brussels, despite being illegal
Alternative taxi company Uber plans to launch a new service in Brussels, despite still being illegal in the capital. UberX uses professional drivers to provide a taxi service – the company uses the term “ride-sharing” – to users of the Uber smartphone app.
At present the company offers its Uber POP service, using members of the public who choose to work as Uber drivers. Some are known to be professional, licensed taxi drivers, but there is no obligation to be.
UberX is one step closer to the kind of service that Brussels is likely to allow at some future date. Uber was declared illegal by the last regional government, a view was upheld in court. Uber appealed, and a verdict is expected in September. Along the way, however, a new government was voted in, and the current minister for mobility, Pascal Smet, has taken more of a conciliatory tone towards the service.
The official taxi sector, however, is less willing to open its arms to Uber. It complains of unfair competition from a service that is not subject to licensing, inspections and legal restrictions imposed on official taxi drivers in the capital. “We welcome any enterprise that offers taxi services according to the laws in force,” taxi associations said in a joint statement.
UberX offers a more professional service, more expensive than Uber POP and with more restrictions – UberX drivers may not use cars older than seven years, for example, and must pass an exam on local knowledge. According to one of the three taxi organisations, UberX could be an attempt to get in through the back door of the laws on limousine services. Those are less restrictive than rules for taxis, with prices set by the market rather than by government decree.
“Uber’s strategy seems to be to offer taxi services at rates lower than the official taxi tariffs, and then, as soon as the taxi companies are priced out of the business, to let the market have its way,” said Pierre Steenberghen of taxi association GTL.
In the meantime, Uber has had talks with authorities in Antwerp about starting the service there and is also reported eyeing Ghent and Charleroi.
Photo courtesy VRT