the court of appeal bans Uber from Brussels

Amir is worried: this young Brussels resident will have to store his beautiful black Mercedes E-Class in the garage even though he has not yet repaid a third of his loan. Friday November 26 at 6 p.m., he will have to comply, like some 2,000 other Uber drivers, with a judgment of the Brussels Court of Appeal which ordered, on Wednesday November 23, the shutdown of the Uber X application. After six years of legal combat, Les Taxis Verts, one of the main companies in the Belgian capital, won their case. They felt Uber was violating the region’s regulations.

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“It’s absurd, because the legislation in question dates from 1995, when smartphones and applications did not exist”, we comment, dismayed, on the side of the Belgian subsidiary of the American platform which, for lack of anything better, speaks of a possible appeal before the Court of Cassation. And put, perhaps, on the “taxi plan” mentioned by the regional government. This reform could decree a single statute for professional drivers, while establishing a possible limited access to the profession and leaving some privileges to conventional taxi companies. Problem: the text has been under review for seven years and does not seem close to being ratified.

Artificial contracts

In the absence of a political decision, it is therefore justice that tried to regulate what was, at the start, a system known as carpooling between individuals. In September 2015, it banned the UberPop application and ordered periodic penalty payments by denying any right to transport customers to drivers who did not have a taxi license.

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Another platform, Uber X, was emerging at the time, relying on so-called “pre-existing transport contracts” between a customer and a limousine driver. A first judge refused to follow the argument of Taxis Verts, who wanted to see the ban extended to Uber X, the court of appeal therefore finally ruled in their favor. She believes that the contracts between the owners of limousines and the platform are artificial and that their principle aims only to circumvent the legal obligation to hold a taxi license to transport people.

Uber drivers announced protest actions and disrupted traffic in parts of the capital

The Belgian Taxi Federation has also brought an action against Uber and, seized of a third case, the court of appeal ruled, in the spring of 2021, the illegality of the trips concluded with a smartphone, they do not can be transmitted, according to the judges, by radio transmitters, which are reserved for taxis. Seized in turn by Uber, it is now the Constitutional Court that will have to decide this question.

Caught by the throat, Uber drivers have, in any case, announced protest actions and they disrupted traffic in some places of the capital as early as Thursday morning. Plunged into traffic jams, Brussels motorists did not know who to curse: Amir and his colleagues or the police who, demanding salary increases and an improvement in their status, have been organizing roadblocks for a few days.

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