Ruling could spell doom for Uber in Denmark

In a long-awaited ruling, the Copenhagen City Court on Friday found six Uber drivers guilty of violating Denmark’s taxi laws.

Ruling could spell doom for Uber in Denmark
The trade union LO said the ruling should drive Uber out of Denmark. Photo: Simon Skipper/Scanpix
The six drivers were handed fines ranging from 2,000 to 6,000 kroner. 
The ruling marked the first time that a Danish court has weighed in on the legality of the popular ride-sharing service. 
Uber was introduced in Denmark in November 2014 and was reported to the police by the Danish Transit Authority within hours of its launch. The Copenhagen Police confirmed in May 2015 that preliminary charges had been filed against the American company, but to the taxi drivers’ dismay the case took over a year to make it to court. 
The local taxi industry has railed against what it says is Uber’s illegal operation in Denmark. The taxi drivers argue that the rideshare 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 Copenhagen City Court ruled on Friday that Uber’s profit motive means it is not a true ridesharing programme but instead is akin to an illegal taxi service. 
It is now expected that Friday’s ruling will clear the way for cases to proceed against an additional 40 Uber drivers who have been charged with violating taxi laws.
Dansk Taxi Råd, a business lobby group for the taxi industry, cheered the court’s decision.
“Copenhagen City Court has ruled that these six Uber partners have provided taxi services. That has been our interpretation all along and we are pleased that the City Court has confirmed that we are correct,” the head of Dansk Taxi Råd, Trine Wollenberg, told news agency Ritzau. 
She added that she hopes police will crack down on Uber drivers now that the court has set a legal precedent. 
The head of the Confederation of Danish Trade Unions (LO), said the court’s ruling should force Uber out of Denmark.
“I now expect Uber to stop offering pirate taxis in Denmark. We need to stop the illegal and unfair competition that Uber has created,” Lizette Risgaard said in a press release. 
According to Uber, there are roughly 200,000 registered users in Denmark and 1,000 active Danish drivers each week. 

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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