Neelie Kroes, the Commission Vice President responsible for the Digital Agenda, slammed Tuesday (15 April) the decision of a Belgian court to ban Uber, a US-owned taxi-service application, and lashed out at a Belgian minister for taking this initiative with the aim of “protecting a cartel” of Brussels taxis.
"I am outraged at the decision today by a Brussels court to ban Uber, the taxi-service app”, states Kroes in a press release. “The court says Uber drivers should have €10,000 fines for every pick-up they attempt. Are they serious? What sort of legal system is this,” the Commission Vice President indignantly continues.
According to Kroes, this decision is not about protecting or helping passengers – “it's about protecting a taxi cartel”.
The relevant Brussels Regional Minister is Brigitte Grouwels. “Her title is “Mobility Minister”. Maybe it should be “anti-Mobility Minister”. She is even proud of the fact that she is stopping this innovation and protecting this cartel”, Kroes goes further.
“It isn’t protecting jobs Madame, it is just annoying people! Tell her what you think by tweeting to @BGrouwels or sending feedback here”, the Commission Vice president appeals.
Kroes also questions how the Belgian authorities expect to apply the court decision.
“And how is this going to work? Are the police now going to spy on our phones to see when we are making Uber booking? Are we going to bankrupt people and send them to jail for trying to support their families with income as a driver? As if the police in Brussels don't have anything better to do”, she further fumes.
Kroes claims that she has spoken to many licensed taxi drivers who in her words realise Uber is also a way to get more passengers for themselves, to develop good relations with regular customers.
She says that she has also met the founders and investors in the Google-backed Uber, which received $258 million from the search giant, and TPG, in August 2013.
“My staff have used the service around the world to stay safe and save taxpayers money. Uber is 100% welcome in Brussels and everywhere else as far as I am concerned”, Kroes says.
The Vice President further says that the real problem of the taxi business is not Uber, but fake taxi drivers.
“Take a moment to consider the 23 recent gang-rapes of women by people posing as taxi drivers. You would think the taxi industry would be more worried by that damage to their reputation than by the threat of competition from Uber”, she exclaims.
Finally, Kroes hits at the Brussels GSM operators, which have been particularly slow at introducing 4G technology:
“Slamming the door in Uber's face doesn't solve anything. It sends a bad anti-tech message about Brussels, which is already in the 4G dark ages. People in Brussels are modern and open, they should have a chance to use modern and open services!"
The Dutch centrist, who is 73, is not expected to seek out another term as an EU Commissioner.