The platform for Belgium's international community

Search form

menu menu
  • Daily & Weekly newsletters
  • Buy & download The Bulletin
  • Comment on our articles

Uber OK, Brixlane on the way, traditional taxis have a bad day

18:00 23/01/2019

Private taxi use just got a big boost in Brussels. The same day that a judge ruled that UberX may continue operating in the capital, the new service Brixlane announced that it will launch its service in Brussels next month.

First things first: UberPop was declared illegal in Brussels in 2015, so the private taxi service launched its UberX service in the capital instead, with officially certified drivers. (It also offers UberBlack, with luxury cars and suit-wearing chauffeurs.)

UberX satisfied the demands of Brussels legislation requiring taxi drivers to be certified, but enraged the capital’s official taxi drivers and related unions. It was unfair competition, they said, as Uber does not offer its drivers labour protections such as paid holiday and social security.

Their complaint to the Brussels court has now been tossed out, as the court ruled that the drivers were not employees of the firm and that the firm is not technically a taxi service. “Uber itself does not provide a transport service,” reads the ruling. “It does not own any vehicles.”

Appeal underway

Uber, the company further explained in a statement, cannot be regarded as a taxi service because there is no dispatch, and drivers can only be hailed through the smartphone app. “The debate over whether UberX is legal is now closed,” said Brussels mobility minister Pascal Smet.

Or not: Taxi association Febet is appealing the court’s decision. Smet also offered this caveat: “This does not alter the fact that we still need to thoroughly reform the sector so that there is a level playing field and security for everyone.”

Worse yet for the traditional taxi sector is the arrival of another competitor: Brixlane, based in Antwerp, plans to launch its ride service in Brussels next month. The company says it’s different because its drivers have the option to either work freelance or with a collective that provides social benefits and regular hours.

Photo: Siska Gremmelprez/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw