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Uber 'wanted to take over the market by any means' says whistleblower

20:16 17/02/2023

A former Uber lobbyist turned whistleblower has accused the ride-sharing company of doing everything in its power to impose a monopoly on the Belgian capital – including breaking the law.

“Uber never intended to modernise the taxi sector in Brussels,” Mark MacGann told the Brussels parliament’s committee investigating Uber this week. “The multinational wanted to take over the market by all means, including illegal ones, to exercise a monopoly there.”

The former lobbyist played a key role in the “Uber Files” investigation carried out by an international consortium of journalists with access to more than 124,000 confidential documents from the US-based ride-sharing company detailing the extent of the multinational’s influence operations with different governments.

Belgian publications involved in the investigation included Le Soir, Knack and De Tijd.

The investigation showed that Uber’s lobbyists had maintained close connections with the Brussels government to obtain more advantageous legislation and prepare for the corporation’s entry into the capital, including between MacGann himself and former mobility minister Pascal Smet.

The special committee of the Brussels parliament was set up to investigate the ride-sharing company’s influence strategy in the Belgian capital, particularly in the context of reforms to the taxi industry adopted a few months before.

MacGann said that he had met Smet twice in his office while the minister was working on the taxi reform, as well as another time at the Hotel Amigo.

The whistleblower said that his relationship, which dated from before the discussions centered around the reforms, had not always been positive and that Smet had been “furious” at a partnership agreement concluded between Uber and Brussels Airlines.

MacGann called for stronger regulation around corporate lobbying, as well as better protection for whistleblowers in Belgium.

Written by Paul Millar