back to article Belgian minister set to legalise Uber

After Uber’s woes in France, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain, Belgium looks set to overturn its existing ban on the (taxi and/or tech) service and bring it within legal regulation. Brussels' mobility minister Pascal Smet has set out a plan to regularise the service, which is still technically illegal in Belgium despite the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Illegal actions are now rewarded...

    If I'd been flouting the law and ignoring court bans, I'd find myself in jail and/or with a huge fine to pay. But not Uber, it seems - or their drivers.

    The concept of Uber isn't particularly awful. If they at least made it so all drivers using Uber have to display their driver's licence and insurance to operate a "for hire vehicle", then it would be something.

    1. Ginolard

      Re: Illegal actions are now rewarded...

      I've been happily using Uber in Brussels since I found out about it. The taxi services here are stupidly expensive (€60 from anywhere in the city to the airport - a journey of maybe 15-20km) and they kicked up an almighty fuss over Uber in order to protect their cosy little cartel.

      I've had taxi drivers refuse to take me because the journey was "too short" and not "profitable" enough. Well, fuck them then, I'm the customer and if a business isn't willing to offer me the service I want at a price I find reasonable, I shall go elsewhere.

      Plus, taxi drivers drive like arseholes here.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Illegal actions are now rewarded...

        Not sure why you pay that much. There have also been alternatives for getting to the airport for years before Uber came on the scene.

        I've only ever been refused when the destination was close by and then it was more "Save yourself some cash, it's just round the corner", which was said in a friendly and helpful way.

      2. phil dude
        Thumb Up

        Re: Illegal actions are now rewarded...

        @Ginolard: mod-up for...

        "I've had taxi drivers refuse to take me because the journey was "too short" and not "profitable" enough. "

        That is the London black cab motto - "I'm on my way home and that is the wrong direction".

        In other news, the state of TN has passed a bill making UberX official "allowed".

        P.

  2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    Tech or transport co... what's there to decide?

    Several departments in the Commission are now working together in examining the complaints as they struggle to decide whether Uber is a tech or transport company.

    Seems like a tech company to me. They provide software, a platform, for connecting passengers to drivers. They do not supply, operator or maintain vehicles. They do not test, evaluate or qualify drivers.

    Not sure why it needs several departments to figure this out. It is the European Commission, I guess that's the only reason it needs.

    Whatever the eventual, probably glacial, decision, this should not make Uber drivers exempt from taxi regulations. The drivers are providing transport in return for a fare, same as a taxi. Then it gets a bit grey since if you're going to enforce the same taxi driver regs on Uber drivers, they should be allowed to do the same as taxi drivers. Which sounds like what the Belgian chap is proposing.

    1. Velv
      Boffin

      Re: Tech or transport co... what's there to decide?

      Totally disagree, and you've made the arguements in your own words:

      "connecting passengers to drivers"

      Technology is only a means to an end. Uber does this as a software platform. It could equally be provided by placing a staff member on every street corner with semaphore flags to coordinate across a city for the engagement between passenger and driver. Clearly this isn't practical, but it could deliver the same service. And it is this service that Uber provides, a transport service, not a technology service. It just leverages technology to deliver the service. Uber takes a cut from the journey, not from licensing or selling the technology.

      Uber is a transport company.

  3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Why the snide?

    Taxi service regulation is left to member states to work out, not the usual Brussels bureaucrats.

    Most regulation is national and managed by national bureaucrats. Brussels only becomes involved in questions of the single market. Hard to see that for taxis to be honest.

    Uber is a fairly parasitic business that essentially relies on arbitrage between regulated and unregulated parts of the market. ie. insurance, minimum wage, quality of driving, criminal record, etc. That's not to say that some taxi markets aren't victims of restrictive practices: the synthetic distinction between taxis and private hire in the UK springs to mind.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why the snide?

      Most regulation is national and managed by national bureaucrats. Brussels only becomes involved in questions of the single market.

      Ho, ho! Brussels meddles in all kinds of things that have at best marginal and indirect effects on the single market; air and water quality, for example.It wouldn't surprise me at all if next week the Commission decided that in the interests of enabling cross-border taxi operation it's regulation would henceforth be an EU competence.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why the snide?

        Seems a bit of a silly thing to say. Brussels doesn't make the rules, they're decided by the Council of Ministers and your MEPs. The commission may propose them and implement them but they can't just make a new law up and put it into force!

        I know there's a section of the UK which likes to believe that the commission is awash with their cash and spends day after day trying to think of ways to piss of little Briton but I suspect that may be an exaggeration.

        As for air pollution, to take your example, that would have been agreed by the national governments (council of ministers) and our MEPs. I can see why agreeing it across a trading block is fair as it means we're all on a level playing field. Besides which to some extent we get the pollution of our neighbors dumped on us due to winds :-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why the snide?

          The Commission proposes laws and the Parliament has to approve them. Both share a common interest in the inexorable expansion of Big Government. You're right that the Council of Ministers can effectively veto much of this, but they're involved in horse-trading to protect what they see as their vital national interests, so much of the stuff that they're not so interested in has to be allowed to slide.

          As for your objection to my pollution examples, you could apply that principle to absolutely anything vaguely employment-related. Perhaps the EU should regulate car parking; after all, employers' provision of free car parking for employees, or local councils' provision, could give countries a competitive advantage over their neighbours? As could rates of road tax, or maybe minimum nutritional standards, or immunisation programmes, or recreational drug use laws, or.... At some point you need to make your mind up about what should be decided locally, and what needs to be decided nationally/supranationally. With the EU as presently constituted, the traffic's all one way.

  4. lauwersw

    Belgium != Brussels

    Note that while Smet is technically a minister in Belgium, he has only authority over Brussels, not the whole country. We have like 4 governments, you know, and he's part of the Brussels government only. The other regions won't necessarily follow his plans.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Belgium != Brussels

      When you say "like 4", do you mean 5?

      Brussels, Walloon, Flemish, German Speaking and federal?

  5. DirkMo

    Smet is not really a Belgian Minister

    Transportation is (in this case) a regional matter and he's actually the Brussels Mobility Minister. So technically it has to be accepted in every region before Belgium considers it legal as a whole. If only Brussels approves it many Uber rides would cross the border with another region. Just another good example of why politics in Belgium is overly confusing:

  6. Tikimon
    Devil

    Private transactions between individuals - none of the government's business!

    Bear with me as I oversimplify (I'm really busy, sorry)

    A man stands beside a road with his thumb out. A motorist stops and offers him a ride, for some gas and lunch money. They motor along for a while, passenger gets out, pays the driver some cash.

    Is this illegal? Uber only facilitates the driver and rider finding each other. Rideshare finder services are not illegal. Why does it become so when money is exchanged? Because a politically connected union uses their government allies to stop competition.

    I do freelance auto repair. I have no license, no ASE certifications, the government hasn't approved my abilities to fix cars. Is this illegal? I'm cutting out a professional repair shop who charges three times what I do. Does the pro shop have cause to demand I be stopped?

    Hell no. If my client wants to take a chance on my mechanic abilities for a lower price, it's their right and mine to do so. It's a private transaction between individuals, and it's not the government's business.

    Anti-Uber actions are driven by protectionism. Period.

    1. SImon Hobson

      Re: Private transactions between individuals - none of the government's business!

      OK I'll bite ...

      > I do freelance auto repair. I have no license, no ASE certifications, the government hasn't approved my abilities to fix cars. Is this illegal?

      Staying UK here, no it's not. There is no legal compulsion for a car repair business to have a license. There are other legal requirements - such as declaring your business to the tax authorities.

      > A man stands beside a road with his thumb out. A motorist stops and offers him a ride, for some gas and lunch money. They motor along for a while, passenger gets out, pays the driver some cash.

      > Is this illegal?

      That depends.

      If the passenger simply offers some cash then it's not illegal. If the driver stops, and offers to take the passenger in return for some reward (doesn't have to be cash, any consideration will do) then that's "hire or reward" which is different.

      Ignoring for a second the requirement to have a hackney carriage license to stop and pick up a passenger who flags you down, few people are insured to use their car for hire or reward - so unless you have paid (quite a bit) extra for that insurance, you would now not have valid insurance for the car. That is illegal (bar certain exception that won't apply to anyone I know).

      IMO Uber is not all that dissimilar to a "taxi" (private hire) firm using freelance drivers. There's no reason to not allow it - provided they obey the law. Others have already expressed why we have laws on hackney carriage and private hire - it's mainly to protect the public, both those using the service and those sharing the roads. Private hire outfits are governed by fairly strict rules on vehicle condition (tougher and more frequent "MoT") and drivers (such as carrying ID and having had background checks).

      IMO Uber should do one of 2 things :

      1) They should obey the law as it is. That means they properly check all their drivers to make sure that they are "fit persons" do be carrying fare paying passengers, and they should check all the vehicles to make sure they are both roadworthy and insured. AFAICT they do neither of these.

      2) They should campaign for the law to be changed - not just for them, but for all private hire outfits.

      Yes - roll back all that red tape which is there to stop people being subjected to (in a small % of cases) travel in unroadworthy vehicles, without insurance, and driven by people they probably wouldn't want to share space with if they knew their background.

      So, are you arguing that if your daughter got in a random car - you'd not be in any way bothered whether the car is insured and roadworthy, and that the driver isn't a convicted rapist ?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It will take a little longer

    ..before people come to understand the real issues with Uber and why it must be banned or heavily regulated for consumer protection. Apparently the issues that have already been experienced including rape, assault and crazed drivers doesn't bother the clueless.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It will take a little longer

      Yeah, I saw a film like that once.

      This hot looking lady has her car repaired, but it turns out she forgot her purse and couldn't pay.

      And before you knew it, it was hubba hubba hubba all over the bonnet with an unlicensed mechanic.

      But she did save on a very large repair bill and seemed to enjoy it.

  8. Adrian Tawse

    And what happens when driverless cars appear

    Few people are going to have thir own driverless car. They are going to be an urban feature that you will summon just like Uber. Are the taxi drivers going to assault the cars? So long as Uber drivers are properly insured, licensed and pay tax then I think the taxi drivers should join Uber.

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