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End of road? Lausanne tries to put brakes on Uber taxi service



The UberPop taxi service was launched in Lausanne in January 2015

The UberPop taxi service was launched in Lausanne in January 2015

(swissinfo.ch)

Uber cab drivers in Lausanne must now conform to the same rules as traditional taxi drivers working in the city and apply for a professional permit or face a fine, Lausanne’s communes have ruled. Uber says it is considering an appeal.

From now on any private individual in Lausanne wishing to sign up to the car-hailing service as an UberPop driver must meet the same employment entry requirements as a traditional taxi driver and obtain a professional B121 taxi licence and a driver’s card and have a validated vehicle.  

The Lausanne communal authority that oversees taxi rules and regulations said this decision taken on Tuesday aimed to guarantee the safety of passengers by allowing them to properly identify drivers, check their driving ability and knowledge of the city, as well as the state of their vehicle. This ruling will come into effect in ten days, after which Uber drivers without a permit may be fined.

The UberPop service was launched in the western Swiss city in January. UberPop is described by the US start-up as a “car-sharing solution for urban areas”, which lets non-professional drivers become chauffeurs-for-hire via a global smartphone app at rates far lower than normal taxi rides.  Several hundred Lausanne drivers are thought to have signed up.

However, the Lausanne authorities see things differently, viewing UberPop as a paid professional transport service similar to a traditional taxi. 

Uber said it was too early to say what it intended to do next but reserves the right to appeal. 

“This comes as a bit of a surprise, especially as we seemed to have a good relation with the Lausanne authorities,” Thomas Meister, Uber’s spokesman for western Europe, told swissinfo.ch. “I imagine the traditional taxi firms have put them under pressure.” 

In March Steve Salom, Uber’s general manager for Switzerland, told swissinfo.ch he had had ‘constructive conversations’ with the Lausanne authorities and said there had been no reported problems with professional taxi drivers.

Lausanne Uber driver Jérémie Allemand said he was saddened by the news and the arguments given seemed like an excuse: “They are not looking at it from the point of view of the users, just from a professional taxi drivers’ perspective.”

“Lausanne is a student city and an affordable taxi service like Uber brings a great deal,” he added.

Criticism

Fast-expanding Uberexternal link has drawn criticism across the world from regulators and established taxi operators. Critics have accused the global app-based taxi booking service of flouting competition rules and of not carrying out sufficient safety checks on drivers and on their vehicles. 

Uber started four years ago and now operates in 250 cities worldwide, including Zurich, Basel, Geneva and Lausanne. 

Since last September the company has experienced complaints from professional taxi drivers in nearby Geneva. In April Geneva's cantonal government ordered Uber to cease operations because it violated cantonal taxi regulations. Canton Geneva considers Uberexternal link to be a taxi dispatch centre and therefore bound to cantonal tax laws. The company is planning to appeal the decision through an administrative court.

Uber drivers in Geneva now face fines of between CHF100 and CHF20,000, according to the website of the cantonal department of security and business.

At the beginning of March a Geneva court threw out a legal case against Uber brought by local taxi firms, which had accused the start-up of unfair competition.

swissinfo.ch

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