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Uber drivers can no longer use smartphones in Brussels

Credit: Belga

Uber drivers who fulfill contracts with smartphones and geolocation can be fined and have their car confiscated, according to a recent decision from the Brussels government that leaves the ride share company effectively unable to operate in the capital.

Brussels is estimated to have 2,000 Uber drivers, but people are sharply divided when it comes to whether the ride sharing service – which has gained immense popularity in other countries like the US and Canada – has a place in the Belgian capital.

“It is the system itself that is reprehensible. The question is, what kind of future we want to give to passenger transport in Brussels? The competition introduced by Uber is not sustainable in the long term,” said Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort, according to Belga News Agency.

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He called for consideration of alternatives, pointing out that Uber doesn’t use employment contracts for its drivers, who instead work as independent contractors.

“It’s like asking a cook to stop using pots and pans,” CDH deputy Christophe De Beukelaer told La Libre. “Rudi Vervoort and [Minister of the Mobility Committee] Elke Van den Brandt are effectively preventing Uber and [French ride-sharing company] Heetch from driving in Brussels. It’s unbelievable. We are going to be the only city in Europe where you won’t be able to order a transport vehicle via your mobile phone.”

De Beukelaer is asking Vervoort to provide an explanation to parliament this week. Meanwhile, Uber is pursuing options in the court.

A representative of Uber in Belgium said that because the regulations are still under investigation by the Constitutional Court, it’s “incomprehensible” that measures are being taken against 2,000 drivers.

In the Taxi Plan drawn up by the Brussels government in 2018, platforms such as Uber are subject to the same rules as current taxis and limousines.

Rudi Vervoort explained that the problem lies with the use of a phone during the ride, saying that Uber does its best to work around certain rules by classifying itself as a limousine, but must respect this rule regarding the use of phones.

Helen Lyons
The Brussels Times