Uber fined R5.3 million in Belgium

Uber has been ordered to pay a 300,000 euro (R5.35 million) penalty, adding to the challenge of a court-ordered partial shutdown imposed on its ride-hailing service in Brussels earlier this week.

The Dutch-speaking Brussels Court of Appeal told two of the company’s units to pay 150,000 euros each when it backed a complaint by a Brussels taxi firm, according to the Nov. 23 ruling yet to be made public obtained by Bloomberg News.

The shutdown order effectively forbade most of Uber’s 2,000 drivers in the city from operating starting Friday evening.

Angry Uber drivers blocked main routes in the Belgian capital on Thursday and the Brussels mobility authority advised drivers to steer clear of the city.

Uber has called on the local authorities to move faster on a proposal to update its taxi rules, which might give the platform legal clarity to operate.

Jean-Michel Courtoy, the director general of Taxis Verts which brought the lawsuit behind the case, called the ruling a “relief.” “The law is for everybody; it has to be respected by everybody.”

The San Francisco-based company is fighting legal battles across Europe over how it employs drivers and complies with taxi regulations.

It’s had a strained relationship with local authorities and taxi firms in the Belgian capital, which plays host to most of the European Union’s institutions, since launching there in 2014.

The following year, Uber was forced to abandon its UberPop service, which saw people use their own cars to offer rides in the city.

It asked customers to call on the Brussels government to reform “outdated regulations,” in an email it sent out Thursday.

“Only 5% of cars will be able to move you around Brussels” after 6.00 p.m. at local time on Friday, Uber said. “You won’t be able to get the service that you are used to in Brussels and, at best, should expect much longer waiting times but, at worst, will struggle to get a ride.”

The ruling affects drivers who hold a Brussels license allowing Uber users hire a car and a driver. It extends a 2015 cease-and-desist order against UberPop to the current service that uses licensed drivers.

A small number of drivers with a license from a nearby region, Flanders, will still be able to operate. A requirement for drivers to speak Dutch may prevent many French-speaking Brussels drivers from obtaining such a license.


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Uber fined R5.3 million in Belgium