Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission

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Crazy court decision to ban Uber in Brussels.

Uber is welcome

I am outraged at the decision today by a Brussels court to ban Uber, the taxi-service app.

The court says Uber drivers should have €10,000 fines for every pick-up they attempt. Are they serious? What sort of legal system is this?

This decision is not about protecting or helping passengers – it's about protecting a taxi cartel.  The relevant Brussels Regional Minister is Brigitte Grouwels. Her title is “Mobility Minister”.  Maybe it should be “anti-Mobility Minister”. She is even proud of the fact that she is stopping this innovation. It isn’t protecting jobs Madame, it is just annoying people! 

Tell her what you think by tweeting to @BGrouwels or sending feedback here or showing that #UberIsWelcome .

No-one is saying that Uber drivers should not pay taxes, follow rules, and protect consumers. But banning Uber does not give them the chance to do the right thing! If Brussels authorities have a problem with Uber they should find a way to help them comply with standards instead of banning them.

Many licensed taxi drivers – the ones with open minds that I have spoken to– realise Uber is also a way to get more passengers for themselves, to develop good relations with regular customers.

I’ve met the founders and investors in Uber. My staff have used the service around the world to stay safe and save taxpayers money. Uber is 100% welcome in Brussels and everywhere else as far as I am concerned.

And how is this ban going to work?  It is an important question. Are the police now going to spy on our phones to see when we are making Uber booking?  Don't you think the police in Brussels have something better to do.

It’s not like the current system is working ... take a moment to consider the 23 recent gang-rapes of women by people posing as taxi drivers. You would think the taxi industry would be more worried by that damage to their reputation than by the threat of competition from Uber!

What was the advice then to female passengers?  Call a taxi by phone instead of hailing one on the street: good idea, but what is wrong with people doing that via Uber?

Slamming the door in Uber's face doesn't solve anything. It sends a bad anti-tech message about Brussels, which is already in the 4G dark ages.

People in Brussels are modern and open, they should have a chance to use modern and open services!

 

 

 

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Comments

  • What is the fait of our society when corporate interest trump the ones of the citizens. America? No thanks.
  • By limiting the number of taxi licenses, thus creating an artificial shortage of taxis in Brussels, Ms. Grouwels and her predecessors have caused a situation in which these licenses are sold for 50000€ to 60000€ in Brussels and even 150000€ for the right to pick up passengers at Zaventem Airport. The immediate result is that a taxi ride in Brussels is among the most expensive in the world, with e.g. 70€ for 20km from the airport to town. More expensive than going to the hookers, right? No wonder the taxi drivers can get sex from young girls in exchange for a free ride! So now Ms. Kroes pls. place yourself in the shoes of a young, starting and endebted taxi driver. I'm not in favour of this mafia system but before allowing competition from Uber, why don't we go through the pain of eliminating the numerus clausus for official taxi drivers? Weren't we asking the Greek to deregulate private transport?
  • If Brussels is still in that middle age of technology, that's perhaps because of its retrograde politic sphere that probably doesn't see any further use of those except Twitter and Facebook during the pre-elections period ! Still waiting the 4G in Brussels, while even some villages can have it. Still waiting for the flight routes to be redirected far from the capital center (!!!) Still waiting for a real improvement of Education when it concerns technologies & sciences. A disgusted citizen.
  • The point is that Uber's competition is unfair, it can offer low prices because they're not paying for the proper licenses. Isn't one of the European Commission's objectives to make sure that competition in all sectors happens fairly?
  • Shameful decision! Brussels should be a free market cartels should be banished from the scene.
  • The ussual liberal blabla. For Kroes, anything that is from the internet is great.
  • Progressist Belgium. As usual!
  • Refreshing, encouraging, invigorating, unconventional, clear, open and honest. Exactly what I expect from European leaders! And I'm from Brussels ...
  • Is indeed the Presidency of the Commercial Court of Brussels. The Court of Appeal, which is excellent, is obliged to overrule all its judgemnts.
  • Fools from Brussels
  • If I read this: http://tweakers.net/nieuws/95410/belgische-rechter-verbiedt-taxi-app-ube... , it's because UBER doesn't pay according to the legal rates. Are you against labor protection-rules? (CAO, ARBO to name the Dutch names)
  • stupid decision
  • Thank you so much for your stand! Please help us to force this governement to accept modernity. They all seem to be stucked somewhere int eh 1950's. They are causing great harms to the Brussels region with its poverty and employment sky rocketting!
  • In your net neutrality proposal, Uber taxis would be allowed on the road, but there would be a raised speed limit for the taxi cartel. The Uber taxis would have to pay authorities €10,000 to offer the same lower travel times to their customers. People on the internet are modern and open, they should have a chance to use modern and open services! Support stronger net neutrality, like a real Steelie Neelie!
  • Me, and all my fellow belgian workers, pay very high taxes. In return, we get a decent social system, affodable healthcare, benefits for thoses without a job, and a country that does not default on its enormous debt. If we want this to be sustainable, everyone who does work has to contribute to the system, no exception. You want to drive people around Brussels? Easy enough, you buy yourself a taxi licence, pay your taxes, and then you can compete on equal terms with other taxi drivers. An by the way, no one is preventing you to call your taxi company Uber if you like to. Even if Brussels is home to the European institutions, always keen to deregulate everything with the aim to destroy the welfare state for the sole benefit of the happy few, and taxi-drive the rest of us to poverty, Brussels is not yet the far-west. We still have our own laws and we would appreciate that overpaid eurocrats mind their own business when it comes to down to Earth problems.
  • And the taxi in Brussels are expensif, unfriendly, dirty
  • Chill.. Can someone in your administration infirm you about Separation of Powers, Madame? I can live with your infinite Brussels bashing, but a bit of respect for our courts would be appreciated. A bit of patience too. It's not just about Uber btw, there are many European ride sharing services too. But apart from all that: I do agree it would be good if the legislator would come up with a an to open up this market for the sharing economy :-)
  • Fully agree with your statement, Mrs Kroes. Mrs Grouwels is about the worst "Mobility Minister" ever in Brussels (look at the daily congestion). It's a corporatist reaction to ban UBER.
  • Great blog! Sad to see this conflict of interests halt innovation. What is next? Bitcoin?
  • I'm pretty sure the main concern here are taxes. Belgium is a country with one of the highest tax rate in the world, and as far as I know people using Uber do not pay any kind of tax. And yes, it sucks... but what else to expect from Belgian politicians anyway?
  • I fully agree
  • All EU member states have tried to successfully regulate the taxi sector for many years. They all failed. Consumers have ended up with expensive bills. Innovation is necessary. Uber is a great IT innovation which is now driving the changes in taxi sector strategy, organisation, people and processes. I would propose to abolish all member states taxi regulations and develop a uniform EU commission led set of rules that can support the successful rollout of a lot more efficiënt, effective and safe way of delivering taxi services to the EU consumer.
  • Madame, Si je ne me prononce pas sur la décision de la cour de justice de Bruxelles c'est que peut-être vous avez raison de dire que les taxis de Bruxelles forment une sorte de cartel. La où on vous entend beaucoup moins pour ne pas dire pas du tout c'est sur l'article du journal Le soir où il est fait mention que des ouvriers portugais travaillent sur les chantiers aux environs de la gare du Nord à Bruxelles pour 3,40 € de l'heure ce qui est non seulement scandaleux mais en plus fausse la concurence. Mais le sort de ces ouvriers n'intéresse sans doute pas les commissaires européens n'est-ce pas, ils continuent de vivre dans leur tour d'ivoire et à faire l'autruche lorsqu'il s'agit de justice sociale. et après cela vous vous étonnerez encore que les gens contestent de plus en plus l'autorité et les "bienfaits" de la CEE et qu'ils votent pour des partis anti européens. Continuez ainsi et bientôt partout en europe les gens prendront leurs distances d'une europe qui pourtant pourrait apporter bien plus qu'elle ne le fait actuellement. Sans europe sociale il n'y aura plus de soutien populaire à cette construction d'une europe technocrate . Un européen convaincu Patrick Muyldermans
  • La Cour a appliqué la loi, Uber non ! Si même les eurocrates , soutiennent la non application des lois parce qu'il apprécient ou non un service ou non, où allons nous ?
  • Dear Mrs Kroes, Thanks for helping innovation over backward protectionism! What can be wrong with better safety (for consumers, but even for taxi drivers), more friendly drivers who have an incentive to provide good service, easier payment and generally choice for consumers? Keep up the fight for innovation and free competition over backward protectionism!
  • Is this a personal hissy fit, or an official standpoint of the European Commission? Is the Vice-President of the European Commission really saying that a court of a member state is doing the bidding of a regional minister who is herself a puupet of a "taxi cartel", which is then blamed for gang rapes? Really?
  • I couldn't agree more with Ms Kroes on this Uber-ban. The no tax-argument surely is a creative find to block this passenger-friendly innovation. And nice to see this straightforward language at this otherwise so formal and cautious EC website.
  • Dear Madam Commissioner, I am somewhat taken aback by your public appeal. Although I am entirely unfamiliar with the case and its background, I would assume that one may at least expect an EU Commissioner to respect the principle of rule of law, of which one of the hallmarks is that a court order is binding and should be respected as long as it has not been annulled or reformed. The court order is open to judicial review should the parties wish to seek to annul or reform the order. Further, should there be any doubt as to the compliance of a Member State's legislation with EU law, the EU Commission itself disposes of an wide array of legal means to address it concerns, for example by initiating proceedings on the basis of Article 258 TFEU. To me, those appear to be the proper channels to address a binding national court order with which one cannot reconcile itself, rather than to flay a nation's judiciary in a public forum (and to slate a regional minister and an economic sector by the same token). In light hereof, you will appreciate that I am of the opinion that your statements do not befit an EU Commissioner. Yours sincerely, Stijn Sabbe Advocaat
  • As an ex-pat, I'm simply tired of living in a place - Brussels - where consumers are always being swindled by different mafias: the taxi mafia, the electricity mafia, the mobile phone mafia, the internet providers mafia, the concert tickets mafia, the car towing mafia and etc etc etc... I'm also losing hope at any possibility of improvement. That's why I welcome the clear stand taken by this article.
  • Dear Neelie, I totally agree! Open markets within the EU has been the leading theme to found The European Union and One Europe. As a result of which open markets within sectors should be 'a piece of cake'. Instead, powerful lobbies can obstruct and (corrupt?) decision makers. What's next?
  • I don't agree (personally). In Stockholm there are 3, maybe 4, reliable and honest taxi companies the rest are so called "free riders" which, although legal, tend to overcharge passengers, mainly tourists and foreign visitors in an often horrendous way. When using a system such as the one you describe you never know what kind of car you will get.
  • Dear Madam Commissioner, I am somewhat taken aback by your public appeal. Although I am entirely unfamiliar with the case and its background, I would assume that one may at least expect an EU Commissioner to respect the principle of rule of law, of which one of the hallmarks is that a court order is binding and should be respected as long as it has not been annulled or reformed. The court order is open to judicial review should the parties wish to seek to annul or reform the order. Further, should there be any doubt as to the compliance of a Member State's legislation with EU law, the EU Commission itself disposes of an wide array of legal means to address it concerns, for example by initiating proceedings on the basis of Article 258 TFEU. To me, those appear to be the proper channels to address a binding national court order with which one cannot reconcile itself, rather than to flay a nation's judiciary in a public forum (and to slate a regional minister and an economic sector by the same token). In light hereof, you will appreciate that I am of the opinion that your statements do not befit an EU Commissioner. Yours sincerely, Stijn Sabbe Advocaat
  • Geachte mevrouw Kroes Geen enkele woord kwaad over uber. Afgelopen maand heb ik uber leren kennen in NY. Een super ervaring,betrouwbare en vriendelijke drivers.
  • Protectionism, as this actually is, does not help the economy. It harms the economy! And protecting a taxi cartel is just rubbish. Uber works extceptionally well, and apparently the taxi cartels are afraid of competition...
  • Madam, I understand that you're not happy with the judgment, and to be honnest I'm not either. However, I also think that you should be more respectful of the institutions of the Member State you live in. Saying that a judgment is "crazy" is in my view very rude towards the Belgian people, in the name of which the judgment was rendered. In a country which follows the rule of law, the judiciary is supposed to interpret and apply the law, which is in this case pretty clear. Should you have a problem with that, you may want to talk diplomatically with the political reponsibles in order to try to convince them. By diplomatically I mean trying not to insult them ("anti-mobility Minister") or their work (4G dark ages). Moreover, this is an important debate that would deserve more than a report of some crimes (would rapes really be made impossible by Uber drivers ??) or the use of the word cartel in a very erroneous way (you definitely know what a cartel is in competition law so please...). To recap: i) this judgment applies the law in the name of the Belgian people so you should not say it is crazy, ii) try to convince the Belgian authorities to change the law or help them to find solutions for these new competitors without being dismissive or insultant (again they represent the modern and open people in Brussels). Best regards,
  • Madam, I understand that you're not happy with the judgment, and to be honnest I'm not either. However, I also think that you should be more respectful of the institutions of the Member State you live in. Saying that a judgment is "crazy" is in my view very rude towards the Belgian people, in the name of which the judgment was rendered. In a country which follows the rule of law, the judiciary is supposed to interpret and apply the law, which is in this case pretty clear. Should you have a problem with that, you may want to talk diplomatically with the political reponsibles in order to try to convince them. By diplomatically I mean trying not to insult them ("anti-mobility Minister") or their work (4G dark ages). Moreover, this is an important debate that would deserve more than a report of some crimes (would rapes really be made impossible by Uber drivers ??) or the use of the word cartel in a very erroneous way (you definitely know what a cartel is in competition law so please...). To recap: i) this judgment applies the law in the name of the Belgian people so you should not say it is crazy, ii) try to convince the Belgian authorities to change the law or help them to find solutions for these new competitors without being dismissive or insultant (again they represent the modern and open people in Brussels). Best regards,
  • Madam, I understand that you're not happy with the judgment, and to be honnest I'm not either. However, I also think that you should be more respectful of the institutions of the Member State you live in. Saying that a judgment is "crazy" is in my view very rude towards the Belgian people, in the name of which the judgment was rendered. In a country which follows the rule of law, the judiciary is supposed to interpret and apply the law, which is in this case pretty clear. Should you have a problem with that, you may want to talk diplomatically with the political reponsibles in order to try to convince them. By diplomatically I mean trying not to insult them ("anti-mobility Minister") or their work (4G dark ages). Moreover, this is an important debate that would deserve more than a report of some crimes (would rapes really be made impossible by Uber drivers ??) or the use of the word cartel in a very erroneous way (you definitely know what a cartel is in competition law so please...). To recap: i) this judgment applies the law in the name of the Belgian people so you should not say it is crazy, ii) try to convince the Belgian authorities to change the law or help them to find solutions for these new competitors without being dismissive or insultant (again they represent the modern and open people in Brussels). Best regards,
  • Madam, I understand that you're not happy with the judgment, and to be honnest I'm not either. However, I also think that you should be more respectful of the institutions of the Member State you live in. Saying that a judgment is "crazy" is in my view very rude towards the Belgian people, in the name of which the judgment was rendered. In a country which follows the rule of law, the judiciary is supposed to interpret and apply the law, which is in this case pretty clear. Should you have a problem with that, you may want to talk diplomatically with the political reponsibles in order to try to convince them. By diplomatically I mean trying not to insult them ("anti-mobility Minister") or their work (4G dark ages). Moreover, this is an important debate that would deserve more than a report of some crimes (would rapes really be made impossible by Uber drivers ??) or the use of the word cartel in a very erroneous way (you definitely know what a cartel is in competition law so please...). To recap: i) this judgment applies the law in the name of the Belgian people so you should not say it is crazy, ii) try to convince the Belgian authorities to change the law or help them to find solutions for these new competitors without being dismissive or insultant (again they represent the modern and open people in Brussels). Best regards,
  • the decison was taken by an independent court of justice of a democratic country. Is this the place for a european commissionner to comment a justice decision ? I'm not a supporter of Ms Grouwels (in fact, i don't like her, and i think she's making bad political choices) but still, she's a minister, elected to a parlementary assembly. Are you elected, Ms Kroes ? Who do you represent ?
  • completely agree. how could we change this stupid decision ?
  • Like in many industries, the gap between provider and customer, the lack of connection and therefore service, is both classic and epic. Whether it be medical doctors, still operating out of arrogance and omnipotent in stead of servicing the customer. Or energy and telecom providers, acting as if the are owners of their slaves the consumers. Like wise the taxi driver mobsters, popping up their heads every once in a while in the news because of fights, rape, kicking out an old lady or mostly having ripped off another customer by circling around a city, taking the unnecessary traffic diversions. And what do they all have in common? Thea are former state or state like behaving cultures. Energy, used to be state. Doctors/medical, have ben state supported, arranged or controlled, educated and regulated for a long time (no health without government, how sick is that). Now taxi drivers are utmost state like, but privately making money. They behave like public transport, they organized like public transport, they can use the public transport lanes, parking places, they even have arrangements together with public transport. By all means, when a government leader or a stat subsidized patient needs transport... it's taxis they use. It is rubbish, bad service, highly payed for, decreasing quality, not moving or developing, therefore standing still and running backwards, industry. And for all, they are allowed to do this profession, by the state. They make money because the government allows them to, by a license fee, i.e. tax. Now there is a new thing, the new kid on the block... UBER. It is from the people for the people. It is social, based on review and experience, costing less in everything! Which is nit eating the economy, it reserves cost for more productive matters... But to lady Brigitte Grouwels it is wrong. It seems -like the first steam trains- bad for the milk and the cows? It will bring out the bad spirits, or what name you? There is not the slightest objective argument to forbid this...but.... the license fees. It is either the addiction to income, tax and fees and the hack with civil service or customer, or..... Or, it has been Mrs. Grouwels having a chit chat with another overpaid taxi driver she made use of, tax paid for, who complained to her about all these evil cheap cars that are doing all this work for free, bot paying any tax. Tax? Fee? Tax-fee, taxi. By all means it is ridiculous and a state intervention that holds everything and everyone back, for nobody's sake, but the government's own.
  • Ms. Kroes, I agree with you on the matter of 4G and the necessity of quickly following technological developments (for the sake of keeping up with global competition). I even think that probably the ban of the Uber taxi-service isn't a very good idea, because it won't be possible to enforce it effectively. However, I wonder if it is entirely appropriate for you, as European Commissioner, to voice your outrage in this manner. Even if it is well meant, it is easy to read or hear an offensive tone that isn't quite necessary and out of touch with the fact that Belgium is host to your workspace. In my humble opinion, it would also have been sufficient to state that you strongly disagree about the court's ruling and the Belgian government's position in this matter. Or something like that.
  • Zonder mij uit te spreken over Uber-apps, denk ik dat uw fulminatie tegen een Brusselse rechtbank en een Brussels minister EUROPA geen goed zullen doen. Het is pijnlijk om te zien hoe een briljante vrouw als u bij het ouder worden zo'n verlies aan decorum vertoont. Het is een goede zaak dat uw mandaat weldra ten einde komt.
  • I understand that you're not happy with the judgment, and to be honnest I'm not either. However, I also think that you should be more respectful of the institutions of the Member State you live in. Saying that a judgment is "crazy" is in my view very rude towards the Belgian people, in the name of which the judgment was rendered. In a country which follows the rule of law, the judiciary is supposed to interpret and apply the law, which is in this case pretty clear. Should you have a problem with that, you may want to talk diplomatically with the political reponsibles in order to try to convince them. By diplomatically I mean trying not to insult them ("anti-mobility Minister") or their work (4G dark ages). Moreover, this is an important debate that would deserve more than a report of some crimes (would rapes really be made impossible by Uber drivers ??) or the use of the word cartel in a very erroneous way (you definitely know what a cartel is in competition law so please...).
  • How about promoting the free market instead of making this a huge Uber ad? I almost expected you to put your Uber promo code at the end of this post... There are plenty of other companies that offer the same service. And although I completely agree this ban is ridiculous, I would expect a high profile politician such as yourself to show a bit more tact. You get quite personal and it doesn't seem like you had a dialog with the minister before posting your rant here. I was also wondering how you "save taxpayers money" by using Uber? Taxis are, in general, easily 30% cheaper.
  • Thank you for this brave and intelligent post. It is nice to see that some politicians are actually forward looking.
  • Glad to see you are standing up and voicing an official position on this, it's indeed a bad decision which allows the taxi cartel in Brussels to remain non-competitive and unprofessional (it's amazing how much time you need to wait for a taxi when you call)!
  • I am a bit shocked about the lack of rationale in this article. It is full of emotions but unfortunately a lot of information is missing. In fact it is very simple. The question is, what is the law in Belgium and was the court decision based on the law or was it ignoring the law? If the decision was ignoring the law, there are established legal procedures and processes that will allow Uber to contest the decision. If the decision was respecting the law, then it would have been foolish to decide differently as such an incorret decision would not withstand in higher court anyway. Whether or not Uber is good or bad for Belgium or certain groups of the population is - at this stage - irrelevant if they are not respecting Belgian law. So, I am not really sure what Ms. Kroes is trying to imply here but I am disappointed to see such a low quality article on a EC blog.
  • I don't exactly understand how making this undifferentiated statement about the Brussels' ban of Uber (for now, in a constitutional state there is the right to appeal) will help this discussion any further. Mrs Kroes has every right to react, even if inflammatory, but should understand the principle of seperation of powers. In this case, the Brussels Minister of Mobility is defending the legal desicion made by the court. She isn't necessarly opposing apps like Uber. Basically she demands Uber to operate within the legal constraints of what a taxi service is in Brussels. Don't get me wrong, I do not applaud the decision to ban Uber, nor do I support the undifferentiated reaction of Min. Grauwels, but for these things I do believe some sort of judiciary basis for when things go wrong. At last, to say that she is proud of "her" ban based on the article on newsmonkey you link to, is in no way admissible. I am, as is Neelie Kroes, a native Dutch-speaker and there isn't the least taste of pride on Mrs Grauwels behalf in the interview. Some over-eager cabinet-employee must have written this utterly stupid blog-entry, dragging in the regrettable rape-issue, and why not the lack of 4G coverage.
  • The court makes its decisions based on the laws provided by politicians. Secondary, this would be the first time I have ever heard of someone in the EU commission to be concerned about "saving tax payers money" That comment would have much more impact if EU commission member actually PAID taxes rather than deduct their 0 taxable income to get welfare. But then again, we all know EU nowdays stands for providing the self proclaimed elite with as much money and power as they can whilst the rest should be happy with hard work for scraps, right? And thirdly, so you are in favor of allowing 1 company to work without licence and obliging all others to work WITH licence? Good job on promoting equality. You should be ashamed of yourself. Like we are used of EU, your only concern here is your own wallet, not the common good.
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