New regulatory and legal developments in Denmark and Italy are posing fresh challenges for ride-sharing giant Uber across the Atlantic even as it waits for a potentially game-changing decision from the European Court of Justice.
In Denmark, Uber is expected to halt operations on April 18 due to the imposition of new taxi rules that require vehicles for hire to be equipped with devices like fare meters and seat-occupancy sensors. Most Danish taxis already have the required equipment, but Uber vehicles – which are private cars owned by their drivers – do not.
Thus, Uber officials said they had no choice but to shut down in Denmark, where the company says some 300,000 people have downloaded its app, and where it claims 2,000 drivers in its operation.
In Italy, a court in Rome last week gave Uber 10 days to stop operating in the country (until April 17), threatening it with fines of more than $10,000 a day if it does not. Uber is expected to file an appeal.
The ruling came in a case filed by drivers at traditional taxi unions, who charged that Uber’s activities constituted unfair competition under Italian law. The court said Uber must stop use of its smartphone apps and discontinue all promotion and advertising.
Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice is expected to rule any time now on what kinds of laws and regulations apply to Uber across the E.U.’s member countries. That decision is expected in a case filed in 2015 by the taxi drivers’ association of Barcelona. (Uber is not available in Barcelona, but it is in Madrid. You won’t find Uber in Frankfurt, either)
The issue facing the court is whether Uber is a transportation service, as the taxi drivers contend, which means the company would have to meet existing labor and safety regulations across the continent; or whether it is, as Uber contends, an “information society service,” which would allow it to operate and expand in Europe following its current business model.
Uber’s competitor Lyft does not yet have its own operations overseas, although it has been working to forge partnerships with some existing app-based ride services in specific markets.
There are some alternatives for travelers. A German-based company called Blacklane (www.blacklane.com) is one. “Travelers schedule rides one hour to months in advance. All drivers speak English and have commercial licenses and insurance. Rates are all-inclusive and guaranteed when you book,” a spokesman tells TravelSkills. “For airport pickups, drivers wait up to an hour for free. We are in five Italian cities (Florence, Milan, Naples, Rome and Venice) plus Copenhagen and 250 other cities worldwide.”
There are also taxi apps like Taxi.eu in Denmark and myTaxi in Italy.
TIP: If you are headed to Europe this summer and plan to use Uber there, be sure to check here before you go.
Readers: In which cities do you miss having Uber or Lyft the most? Please leave the cities below.