Uber drivers can no longer use their smartphones to arrange rides in Brussels effectively putting a stop to the app-based taxi system in the EU capital, the local government said on Monday.
Drivers continuing to use their smartphones to accept new trips now risk a fine, a temporary suspension or permanent withdrawal of their license or the confiscation of their vehicle under a newly enforced taxi regulation.
“The problem is it’s the system itself that’s condemnable,” Brussels Minister President Rudi Vervoort told RTBF. “I’m simply telling everyone to respect the rules, that’s all.”
More than 2,000 drivers offer rides via the Uber app in Brussels. But Vervoort said Uber has been relying on a separate system for renting cars with drivers to bypass an earlier ban on its low-cost UberPop service without abiding by the rules.
The company says it’s looking for a solution with taxi associations and the regional administration in Brussels. It blamed the city’s outdated taxi legislation dating back to 1995, years before the advent of the smartphone.
“The Constitutional Court is currently assessing whether drivers can use their smartphone to receive trip requests in Brussels,” said an Uber spokesperson. However, that process could take up to a year.
Belgian center-right MP Christophe De Beukelaer called for a rethink on the policy. “In the middle of a pandemic, in the wake of an unprecedented economic crisis, the Belgian government puts thousands of families at risk,” he said on Twitter.
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