Brussels police tribunal: An Uber driver found guilty of breaking the rules on taxi services
Monday, 04 May 2015
An Uber driver has been found guilty of breaking the rules on the paid transport of people by the Brussels police tribunal on Monday. It’s the first case against an Uber driver since the American company arrived in Brussels in February 2014. More than 30 similar cases are being investigated or in the early stages of prosecution, according to the Brussels Prosecutor’s office. The Uber driver was found guilty of breaking the rules on the paid transport of people. He was given a suspension, seeing as he has no previous offenses. He will, however, lose his vehicle, which was seized a few months ago.
The transport of individuals by individuals, via the “Uber” application, is illegal in Brussels. This was demonstrated through Monday’s police tribunal ruling. The “app” is used by a lot of people, which has led to strong reactions from Brussels taxi firms. They are calling it unfair competition.
The driver contested the charge through his lawyer, Counsel Jacques Verhaegen. According to the lawyer, it is only an offence if the driver makes his vehicle available to the public, and the driver made his vehicle available to Uber.
According to the police tribunal, what Uber does is not car sharing, but paid transport of individuals. “In car sharing, the same journey is taken together, but there is no payment”, he said. Uber does not meet these two criteria, according to the tribunal. The driver tried to argue that an Uber driver doesn’t make his vehicle available to the public, but to “the Uber community”, meaning people who have downloaded the app. The tribunal decided it was not valid, as anyone can download it.
The ruling stated that Uber must respect the same regional rules as the Brussels taxi firms. The tribunal also expressed its concerns that people who use Uber have no guarantees about the health and competency of their driver. The same worries were expressed about the condition of the vehicle and its insurance.
Counsel Jacques Verhaegen said he was planning to appeal.