EU Commission VP Neelie Kroes is “outraged” by Uber ban in Belgium [Update]

EU Commission VP Neelie Kroes is “outraged” by Uber ban in Belgium [Update]

Neelie Kroes, vice-president for the European Commission, has struck out against a court order banning Uber’s ride-sharing service uberPOP  in Belgium.

The ruling means that Uber will be fined 10,000 euros for each violation. Kroes said she was “outraged” by the decision and said it was designed to protect a “taxi cartel”, rather than the best interests of passengers in the region.

“Slamming the door in Uber’s face doesn’t solve anything,” she added.

Up until now, Uber has been running a ride-sharing service under the brand name uberPOP. It debuted in Belgium only a couple of months ago, and differs from the traditional service by allowing anyone to register as a driver.

As reports, the court issued its ruling because uberPOP drivers aren’t required to hold a taxi license. Uber is undercutting the longstanding taxi operators in the area which, according to those who filed the complaint, is creating unfair market competition in Brussels.

“How is this going to work?” Kroes asked. “Are the police now going to spy on our phones to see when we are making Uber booking? Are we going to bankrupt people and send them to jail for trying to support their families with income as a driver? As if the police in Brussels don’t have anything better to do.”

Kroes’ criticisms shouldn’t be taken lightly. She was one of the main drivers behind a recent reform to abolish mobile roaming charges in the European Union – a major victory for citizens in the region.

In a deluge of scathing remarks, Kroes attacked Brigitte Grouwels, a regional minister for Brussels, describing her as the “anti-mobility minister” for the country. She also suggested that people respond to Grouwels on Twitter.

“It sends a bad anti-tech message about Brussels, which is already in the 4G dark ages,” she said. “People in Brussels are modern and open, they should have a chance to use modern and open services!”

Update: Uber has responded to the decision:

“Trying to limit people’s choice doesn’t ever seem like a good idea. However, it was the idea behind the recent lawsuit filed by Brussels radio taxi companies, big companies that have failed consumers, drivers and the city of Brussels over and over again.

“If anyone should be filing lawsuits, it’s Brussels consumers and Brussels taxi drivers – to stand up against all those who have been trying to protect these companies’ vested interests for decades, and who are continuously trying to block consumer and driver choice.

Uber’s ride-sharing service – uberPOP – has been embraced by the Bruxellois to overwhelming demand from both riders and drivers since launching in February this year. By providing a safe, reliable and hassle free transportation option whenever and wherever a Bruxellois or visitor needs it, the economic activity and choice generated by Uber’s platform in the market is simply unmatched.”

Image Credit: Martijn Beekman/AFP/Getty Images

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