Fans of disruption and consumer choice, look away.
According to De Tijd, the court order follows a complaint from traditional taxi operators who are not in favour of competition and consumer choice and would like to see its lucrative business protected by the government.
They seem to be getting what they want: the Brussels Commercial Court has set a 10,000 euro fine for every violation of the order by Uber.
According to the court ruling, Uber is illegal in Brussels because UberPOP drivers are not in possession of a taxi license, which the incumbent taxi companies deem ‘unfair market competition’. More likely, it’s because taxis in Brussels are ludicrously expensive, and Uber is easily able to undercut prices by a large margin. Uber, which did not appear in court, is also being forced to publish the verdict in three (oddly, only French-language) newspapers.
The court is thus sending a clear message to the world: Brussels will not support innovation and disruption in the transportation space any time soon, and its inhabitants and visitors will simply have to deal with little choice, high prices and questionable quality for the time being.
Protectionism at its ugliest.
Uber has yet to publicly respond to the ruling, but has in the past repeatedly called out the Brussels government and asked it to ‘stop spreading misinformation and playing games’.
The company claims it’s been in regular contact with Brigitte Grouwels, Brussels’ minister of public transportation and her cabinet, as well as the Director of the Brussels Mobility Administration – the regulator – since September 2013, repeatedly meeting and emailing both parties about its desire of a ‘clean’ launch in Brussels.
Uber wrote that the authorities have stopped communicating with them directly, accusing the government of using the media to make a spectacle out of blocking Uber from operating in Brussels.