Uber on brink of pausing operations in Brussels after court ruling


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Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi speaks at a product launch event in San Francisco, California on September 26, 2019.
Philip Pacheco | AFP via Getty Images

Uber has been ordered to stop offering its main ride-hailing service in the Belgian capital of Brussels from Friday evening.

The Brussels Appeal Court ruled on Wednesday that a 2015 ban on private individuals offering taxi services also applies to professional drivers.

“From this Friday, you won’t be able to get an Uber ride in the EU capital,” Uber wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “We’re disappointed with today’s court decision to close our Brussels app.”

Uber said the decision goes against the European Commission’s digital and green ambitions. The European Commission is the executive arm of the European Union.

Uber has been fighting legal battles across Europe over how it employs drivers and complies with taxi regulations. It says drivers like the flexibility of being self-employed but some drivers say they struggle to earn enough money through the app while also missing out on employee benefits like sick pay and annual leave.

Uber has been urging people to sign a petition to save the 2,000 professional drivers who use Uber in the city.

Niklas Oestberg, co-founder and CEO of food delivery app Delivery Hero, also criticized the decision.

“Europe’s anti-tech stances is only hurting our own tech progress,” he wrote on Twitter. “Uber disrupted the taxi industry 10 years ago and we still don’t have a better solution than this?”

Angry drivers blocked the main street leading from the European institutions to the center of Brussels in protest on Thursday and the Brussels mobility authority advised drivers to avoid traveling through the city.

The Brussels government agreed Thursday on a proposal to reform the region’s taxi and private car industry. The authorities said they would “actively look for a temporary solution” for Uber although one has yet to be formally announced.

Brussels minister-president Rudi Vervoort wrote on Twitter that the agreement “must guarantee a quality service that is adapted to the new habits of customers and users.”

The court also fined Uber 300,000 euros ($336,000), according to Bloomberg. It reportedly told two of the company’s units to pay 150,000 euros each as it backed a complaint by Taxis Verts, a Brussels taxi firm.

While London is Uber’s biggest market in Europe, Brussels is a major city with many business delegates and politicians traveling to the city on a regular basis.

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