Uber calls on Brussels to reconsider measure banning smartphones
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Uber calls on Brussels to reconsider measure banning smartphones

Credit: Belga

Uber has responded to the recent decision by Brussels to forbid its drivers from using smartphones to find their fares, effectively rendering the company unable to operate in the Belgian capital.

“It is incomprehensible that the government is taking measures against 2,000 drivers on the basis of a regulation currently under review by the Constitutional Court,” Laurent Slits, Head of Belgium at Uber, told The Brussels Times. “This is a matter of great concern to the drivers and their families, and we call on the Minister-President to respect the work of the Constitutional Court and await its decision.”

The measure took effect today and has left much of Brussels parliament divided, with some MPs taking to Twitter to express their opposition.

Some of the tweets allude to the regulation article referenced in the new ban, which dates back to 1995, a decade before the first iPhone was released.

“Rather than wanting to maintain archaic rules of 1995, we would do better to wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court concerning the taxi and Uber sector, as the Brussels Court of Appeal explicitly requests.”

“Banning smartphones and smart technologies in 2021 is insane. We should wait for the judgment of the Constitutional Court and in the meantime work on a new proposal.”

Supporters of the measure argue that Uber’s work model – in which its employees are contractors without benefits, guaranteed wages, or protections against market saturation – is unethical and antithetical to Belgian standards for employers.

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Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort called the system “reprehensible,” and added that the competition introduced by Uber is unsustainable in the long run for existing taxi and limousine services in the capital.

In January 2019, the Brussels courts ruled that rideshare drivers could use a smartphone and said “it is unreasonable to claim that the current regulations would prohibit the presence of a mobile phone on board a [Light Commercial Vehicle/LVC].”

On 15 January of this year, however, the Constitutional Court was asked to assess whether the Brussels regulations for LVC vehicles are constitutional. That process is still underway.

Uber, along with the several other driver associations, has reached out to the Brussels government to ask for a meeting to discuss the new guidance as soon as possible, saying they hope to find a solution through taxi reform as the government promised in 2014.

There are over 2,000 licensed Uber drivers in Brussels affected by the recent measure.

Uber says it is “fully committed to Brussels” and believes it has an important role to play in making Brussels “safer, less congested, more sustainable and better connected.”

Helen Lyons
The Brussels Times