'One fine and we'll shut down Brussels'; Uber drivers rally against smartphone ban

'One fine and we'll shut down Brussels'; Uber drivers rally against smartphone ban
Credit: Belga

After a ban on the use of smartphones by Uber drivers left the popular rideshare company effectively unable to operate in the Belgian capital, the president of the Association of Belgian Limousine Drivers (ABCL) has spoken out and called the move “scandalous.”

Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort announced the measure yesterday, apparently blindsiding the 2,000 some Uber drivers who operate in the city. Around 100 of them drove to his official residence yesterday to demand an explanation.

While the measure references a 1995 law involving “radio communication devices,” supporters of the smartphone ban make it clear that their primary reason for trying to shut down the rideshare service is because its business 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.

But opponents like Fernando Redondo, president of ABCL, point out that Uber has been operating in Brussels for years.

“Vervoort has tolerated the current working method for years until overnight we are no longer allowed to use our smartphone,” Redondo told De Standaard. “He has clearly succumbed to the taxi sector lobby.”

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Redondo says the “bullying measure” has hit extra hard during the coronavirus, which has already caused the taxi sector to suffer enormously.

“When we hear that even one driver was fined for using his smartphone, we will shut down all of Brussels,” he said. “We hope it doesn't have to come to that, but we are prepared to do so.”

Brussels parliament has been divided on the issue, with some members voicing opposition on Twitter. Pascal Smet called the measure “too crazy to be real.”

Uber drivers who fulfill contracts with smartphones and geolocation risk being fined and even having their car confiscated.

As of this morning, Ubers could still be ordered in Brussels without issue using the app.

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