Uber launches taxi service in Flanders
On November 9th, Uber will start its taxi service in Flanders. The American cab company announced this on Wednesday. Until now, Uber has only been active in Belgium in Brussels and at Zaventem airport.
Via the app, you can now order an UberX throughout Flanders, with the highest availability in Antwerp, Ghent, and Leuven. The new services are fully compliant with the new Flemish cab regulations, the company emphasizes.
According to press agency Belga, Uber says it has seen demand for rides grow in several cities in Flanders. The company bases this on the number of people who have opened the app in recent months and on conversations with drivers.
The arrival of the alternative taxi service Uber to Flanders is already creating bad blood at the socialist transport union, BTB. “With the introduction of the new Flemish cab decree and, on top of that, the Covid-19 crisis, the cab sector was already hanging in the ropes. Flanders now allows Uber to knock out the cab sector,” says BTB.
The union compares Uber’s working method with “social dumping”, where “all the benefits are for the platforms and all burden for the drivers”. In 2015, BTB already filed a complaint against Uber with the labor inspector for false self-employment. And there is still a lawsuit in progress to curb Uber. This has been instituted by the Belgian Taxi Federation (FeBet).
According to FeBet, Uber is “a disguised cab service”, the UberX app acts as a platform for sending goods and the LVC-drives (license for rental cars with driver) using Uber provide “no limousine service as defined by law”.
Uber rejects the accusations
Uber’s legal counsel and independent LVC-licensed drivers disputed all allegations made by the counterparty. They rely on competition law, arguing that their customers comply with the legal framework. If the coronavirus does not throw a spanner in the works, the decision of the Court of Appeal in Brussels will follow on 18 December at the latest.
According to Uber itself, the new services are fully in line with the new cab regulations of the Flemish government introduced by former Flemish Minister of Mobility, Ben Weyts (N-VA), and in force since the beginning of this year. “We are no longer the same company we were ten years ago,” says Laurent Slits, Head of Uber Belgium in De Standaard. Slits refers to the early years when founder Travis Kalanick started fighting local administrators like a street fighter and didn’t even shy away from espionage.
As a consequence of that new Flemish taxi decree, for example, Antwerp’s city council has abolished the city taxi regulations, which allows Uber to operate in the city from now on. By deregulating taxi services in the city, more competition will become possible, which should benefit mobility.
Due to the corona pandemic, Uber – meanwhile, almost 2 000 drivers are active in Belgium – has also introduced a series of hygienic safety features and measures. Both passengers and drivers must wear mouth masks during the ride and confirm that they have understood and comply with local health and safety measures. For example, the app constantly reminds all users to wash or disinfect their hands and keep the windows open to improve ventilation during the ride.
“Partner drivers are also provided with disinfectants, and Uber has equipped vehicles with polycarbonate partitions,” they say. Uber also announces that it is subsidizing 10 000 free rides for hospital staff in Antwerp, Leuven, and Ghent.