Italy: Taxi drivers protest against private car service

A Milan court has banned UberPop’s car-sharing business in Italy.

A Milan court has ruled that UberPop’s car-sharing service creates unfair competition. The ban on its activities means that it will effectively go out of business in Italy if it does not comply with the same rules as a taxi company.

Uber is an American-based international transportation network company that makes it possible for users of its smartphone app to order a ride from a driver who may not have a commercial licence; for instance, a private car owner who may simply be travelling in the same direction as well as someone operating a private-hire car business. Italian taxi drivers are highly regulated and taxi licences are strictly controlled. Taxi drivers have to pay labour taxes and are obliged to provide a universal service. Taxi drivers' unions asked the court to block the app in Italy. However, the company has already announced its decision to appeal.

More than 2,000 taxi drivers gathered in Turin in February to protest against Uber, after a court in Genoa had ruled in favour of an Uber driver. The taxi drivers went to the headquarters of Italy’s Transport Authority (ART) asking for legislation regulating public transport to be extended to private-hire car services.

During that day, Uber, as it had done during a previous protest, offered lower fares.

The court in Genoa said the service should be considered as a ‘voluntary sharing of a personal automobile for private mobility’. Nevertheless, many vehicles linked to Uber have been seized by police who told drivers they were infringing Section 86, paragraph 2 of the Highway Code, which governs taxis and private hire cars. However, since the regulation is complex and predates apps its interpretation can vary. For example, it does not allow a company such as Uber to operate taxi-meters. However, Uber argues that its fares are not calculated by taxi-meters but by an algorithm related to the smartphone application.

The General Manager of Uber Italy, Benedetta Arese Lucini, has declared her willingness to be consulted by the Government in framing a new regulation, but the taxi drivers’ unions want the Government to ensure a clear interpretation of the Highway Code and its enforcement.

 

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