Uber exit: Brussels government proposes new taxi deal

The Brussels government agreed on Thursday on a proposal to reform the region’s private car and taxi industry, just one day after a judge ordered Uber to almost completely halt its operations in Brussels.

Brussels authorities also said they would “actively seek a temporary solution” for Uber, as the new taxi reform still needs to overcome obstacles, including a scrutiny by Belgium’s data protection authority and the highest administrative court.

Uber, however, drew the blame on Brussels Minister and President Rudi Vervoort for being effectively banned as of Friday night. “Uber is solely responsible for the development of this sector, while there was a legal risk that it would be outlawed,” he said. The company had “misled” about 1,200 private car drivers, he added.

Vervoort himself was criticized on Thursday after the ruling. Angry drivers blocked the main streets and a reform petition garnered more than 12,000 signatures in half a day.

The Brussels Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday that a 2015 cease-and-desist order applied not only to the ride-sharing company’s UberPop formula, which considers non-professional drivers to carry passengers, but also to its current formula of licensed professional drivers.

Uber has said that this would effectively halt its operations in Brussels, as only a hundred drivers with a Flemish license will still be able to operate as of Friday in Brussels.

The dispute between Uber and the Brussels government has been going on for a while, especially since Brussels authorities reminded drivers in the spring that they cannot accept rides via their smartphones based on a 1995 law. Uber stopped its application for a few hours in September in protest at the slow reform.

Uber said in an initial response that the government’s plans were an “important first step.”

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