Danish taxi drivers call for action against Uber

Hundreds of taxi drivers parked their vehicles in front of the Danish parliament building on Wednesday in protest against the rideshare service Uber.

Danish taxi drivers call for action against Uber
Angry taxi drivers filled Christiansborg Slotsplads on Wednesday. Photo: Emil Hougaard/Scanpix
Christiansborg Slotsplads was lined with taxis on Wednesday as some 300 taxi drivers demonstrated against what they said were illegal practices from Uber drivers.  
The group Taxi Drivers in Denmark (TID) organized the protest as a way to prod the Danish government into taking on a formal complaint the taxi drivers filed against Uber when it made its Denmark debut in November 2014. 
“We want to tell the politicians that Uber is violating the law. They earn more money for driving customers than allowed,” TID chairman Søren Nikolaisen told broadcaster DR. 
The taxi drivers argue that the ridesharing service Uber Pop creates unfair competition because Uber’s drivers and vehicles aren’t required to live up to the same requirements as others in the taxi business, one of the most thoroughly-regulated industries in Denmark. 
The Danish Transit Authority filed a police complaint against Uber in November and the Copenhagen Police confirmed in May that preliminary charges had been filed against the American company, but the case has yet to go to court. 
TID says they have also reported around 200 Uber drivers to the police this year but no action has been taken. 
For its part, Uber has argued that it is not a taxi company but rather a ridesharing programme and therefore should not be held to the same requirements as others in the taxi business.
On Wednesday, a company spokesman said that its drivers were not making money. 
“Much of what the taxi industry says about us is not true. Most of the people who driver for us aren’t earning anything off of it. We are experiencing a growing interest from our partners and passengers,” Mathias Thomsen told DR. 
TID’s Nikolaisen dismissed the company’s argument. 
“Of course they are making money. Nobody drives around all day without making money,” he countered. 
Upon announcing its arrival in Copenhagen, Uber said it would offer two services: Uber Black, in which customers are picked up by a chauffeur-driven luxury car, and Uber Pop, in which private vehicle owners drive customers in their own cars. 
According to the company, Uber Pop is significantly less expensive than current market prices. 

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Danish supreme court upholds fines given to Uber drivers

The Danish supreme court Højesteret has upheld fines totalling 700,000 kroner (94,000 euros) given to four men for operating illegal taxi services as Uber drivers in 2015.

Danish supreme court upholds fines given to Uber drivers
File photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix

The four drivers will therefore be required to pay respective fines of 486,500 kroner, 110,000 kroner, 60,000 kroner and 40,000 kroner.

Special prosecutor Anne Risager expressed her satisfaction with the outcome.

“It was important to make a statement about the cost of breaking taxi laws to such a large extent as seen here,” Risager said.

The size of the fines equates to the earnings made by the four drivers from transporting paying passengers in private vehicles using the Uber app.

The ride-sharing service announced its withdrawal from Denmark in March 2017, having launched operations in the country in 2014.

Although a prosecution request to increase the fines by 20 percent of drivers’ earnings was rejected by the court, Risager said the result was satisfactory.

“The most important thing for us was that they did not make earnings through breaking taxi laws. The fines are at a level that made this unprofitable,” she said.

Defence lawyer Poul Helmuth Petersen said he was disappointed on his clients’ behalf but gave no further comment.

An unnamed spokesperson with Uber also expressed disappointment at the decision in a written comment.

The cases against the four men are test cases, given that the court was required to make judgements based on Dutch tax records. Uber’s European head office is in the Netherlands, and the Dutch evidence was therefore the first of its kind to be used in a Danish case.

The finding of the supreme court that the material was passable sets a precedent for up to 1,500 new cases against former Uber drivers whose details were handed over to Danish police voluntarily by Uber’s Dutch office.

That information includes names, bank details, addresses and earnings of drivers who used the app for work.

According to Danish tax authority Skat, 2,134 Uber drivers collected 56 million kroner in Denmark in 2015.

Police have also awaited the outcome of the case in order to commence prosecution of Uber itself for participation in providing illegal taxi services in Denmark.

The four drivers had sought acquittal, with their lawyers arguing against the use of tax records as evidence.

READ ALSO: Uber wants to return to Denmark after admitting past mistakes