In the lawsuit opposing Uber to the Belgian taxis, the judge has just given his decision. The whole question was whether or not Uber was a taxi service. Indeed, a few months ago the FEBET (Fédération Belge des taxis) had sued Uber in court claiming unfair competition. The Belgian federation of taxis accused Uber of making taxi rides without the necessary license to carry out taxi trips.
According to the Belgian legislation in force, the owners of LVC licenses can not carry out taxi trips. LVC means Location Voiture Avec chauffeur or car rental with a driver. As a matter of fact, they are obliged, for each ride to have a written contract with the client. Furthermore, each ride must be at least 3 hours duration (not necessarily continuous). It must cost at least 30 euros per hour VAT excluded.
It turns out that in fact, the rides performed by Uber drivers do not practically respect this legislation. Because the Uber rides are in the majority of small distances. Just like taxi trips carried out by regular taxi drivers.
Platform rider association (PRA) contract
Uber however by launching his UberX service has also created what he calls a PRA contract (Platform Rider Association). This is basically a contract between an Uber driver and all Uber users. The Platform rider association includes all Uber users. The PRA contract basically says that even if an Uber user who is by the same time a PRA member, does not make himself a taxi ride of minimum 3 hours and 90 euros that is not a big deal as there will be another PRA user who will order a trip just after him, and so forth, so as to finally have several trips. All these trips once combined will totalize the minimum of 3 hours and 90 euros required. So thanks to this ingenious trick Uber can respect the law if this convinces the authorities.
The decision of the court
The whole issue was whether Uber trips should be considered as LVC trips or taxi trips that violate the law. Because Uber drivers do not have taxi licenses.
The judge finally decided by saying clearly that Uber is not a taxi service. That the rides carried out by Uber drivers are indeed LVC rides. That Uber can continue to operate in the city of Brussels without any problem. It is therefore clear that the judge was convinced by the PRA contract that Uber had put in place.
This court decision is a big blow to the taxi industry. First of all, this is the first decision that makes it clear that Uber is legal in Brussels. Because there was a lot of vagueness and contradiction about the legality of Uber in Brussels. At least at this point, things can not be clearer at the moment. Because several Uber drivers report controls by the police where they were clearly told that Uber was illegal. That’s at least one thing the police will never say to Uber drivers again.
The decision is a major setback to the taxi sector. Knowing that the decision was taken in Brussels, which is the capital of Europe. This decision in one way or another will have its impact in other European countries.
For the moment we can only say 1 for Uber and 0 for taxis. Let’s see if the taxis give up or if they are going to appeal …