Uber drives Danish MPs to negotiation table

The transport minister has confirmed that Denmark will take up potential changes to existing taxi legislation as police charges against Uber drivers begin piling up.

Uber drives Danish MPs to negotiation table
Danish taxi regulation is set for an update. Photo: Lars Rasborg/Scanpix

Transport Minister Hans Christian Schmidt confirmed on Tuesday that he would meet with colleagues to discuss Denmark’s highly-regulated taxi industry in response to growing complaints over rideshare service Uber. 

“I will meet with the relevant spokespersons [for transport] from the other parties to discuss an appropriate way in which to update the regulation,” Schmidt said in a statement.

The minister declined to give his Venstre party’s position on Uber specifically, stating that he was unable to comment on companies facing outstanding police charges.

It was reported on Tuesday that police have charged three drivers during the last month despite a lack of clarity as to whether it is illegal to offer driving services through the app.
Other parties have been more forthcoming in clarifying their positions, with Liberal Alliance transport spokesperson Joachim Olsen suggesting that current legislation is creating a lack of competition in the industry.

“At the moment we have an industry that is regulated inside out, and that ends up leaving consumers at a disadvantage,” Olsen said to broadcaster DR. “It can only be a good thing to have a new concept like Uber bringing competition to the market.”

Both the Danish People’s Party (DF) and the Social Democrats (S) took a dim view of Uber’s concept and the American app’s place within the Danish public transport scene.

“We will not be legalising Uber,” said DF’s Kim Christiansen. “What they are doing is pure taxi piracy and black market. It is as illegal as you can get.”

“If the holding company is in a tax haven and drivers are driving without the necessary taxi licenses and not paying tax on their earnings, then I don’t think this is something that should be made legal,” Rasmus Prehn of the Social Democrats told DR.

Meanwhile Matias Møl Dalsgaard, the founder of Danish app GoMore, voiced concerns that a misuse of terminology by both politicians and Uber itself would damage his own ridesharing app.

GoMore, unlike Uber, does not allow specific journeys to be ordered – users can only register for existing trips posted by drivers. GoMore, according to Dalsgaard, provides a long distance service, with its average journey length standing at 230 kilometres. As such, Dalsgaard has argued that GoMore is a ridesharing service that is different in its nature from the type provided by Uber, which more closely resembles a taxi company.

See also: Legal challenge greets Uber's debut in Denmark

Uber was introduced in Denmark in November 2014 and was reported to the police by the Danish Transit Authority within hours of its launch.

However, charges have been rare due to uncertainties over legislation. Commissioner Søren Wiborg of Copenhagen Police’s traffic department told Berlingske that current policy is not to actively pursue Uber drivers, but to charge them if they are caught by other means such as regular traffic checks.

“It can also be difficult to see who is driving for Uber, so we have to deal with it as we get to know the drivers,” said Wiborg.

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