Uber ordered to shut Brussels service within 21 days

UberPOP was given 21 days to close by a Belgian court on 24 September

UberPOP was given 21 days to close by a Belgian court on 24 September [Alper Çu?un/Flickr]

A Belgian court today (24 September) confirmed a ban on controversial ride-sharing app UberPOP on Thursday, giving it 21 days to close operations in Brussels or risk massive penalties.

UberPOP is the cheaper and less regulated service from Uber, the Silicon Valley start-up with a valuation of some $50 billion (€45 billion) that launched in capitals across Europe, often in open violation of local taxi laws.

A spokesman for Uber confirmed the decision from the Brussels court, which followed a ban decided in April 2014 that the company ignored.

“We are looking at the implications of this ruling which hurts hundreds of our driver-partners and tens of thousands of people who have come to rely on UberPOP to get around Brussels safely and affordably,” Uber’s Filip Nuytemans said.

>>Read: Taxis jam Brussels in protest against Uber

Another Uber executive said the company had 21 days to fall in line with the ban or face penalties. Nuytemans said Uber’s more expensive service UberX, which requires drivers to be professionally licensed, was not affected by the ban.

Anticipating the court decisions, premium service UberX launched earlier this month, following a similar strategy in Paris, where UberPOP is also banned. France’s highest court on Tuesday confirmed the ban in a huge setback for the company that sees the country as a strategic market.

Across the globe, Uber has angered traditional taxi operators who say it represents unfair competition because Uber drivers can flout the rules and restrictions that regulate the professionals.

On Thursday (24 September), hundreds of Polish taxi drivers caused tailbacks in the capital Warsaw, matching similar recent protests in Brussels, Lisbon and Paris, the latter turning violent.

>>Read: Taxi drivers look for allies in the Commission against Uber

Uber, the world's most valuable venture-backed start-up, with a valuation of $40 billion, is facing increasing legal challenges across Europe, where local taxi drivers have taken to both the streets and courts to fight it.

It has been criticised worldwide over how it pays drivers, charges passengers and ensures their safety. Taxi companies argue it competes unfairly because it does not have to pay their steep license fees and bypasses local laws.

To date, Uber has been hit by court injunctions in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.

Uber has already filed two complaints against a French law it says favors regular taxi companies at its expense.

Regulation of taxi services is the competence of member states, the European Commission said, but it would assess the complaints in light of the principles of proportionality, non-discrimination and freedom of establishment.

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