In an open letter, the mayor of Prague – Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) – calls for the company Uber to respect the decision of the European court and to start abiding by the effective legislation. In December, the EU court made the decision that Uber is a transport service and has to have a licence, according to the laws of the given EU country. The company objects to this decision.
“I appeal the company Uber to stop making fun of citizens from the whole Czech Republic, and to start respecting the laws. It is Uber’s responsibility, if they want to run this service, but instead, they are bypassing the laws and operate illegally here,” said the mayor in the letter.
“The fact that the government is preparing legislation changes that should regulate these kind of services does not mean that the company can break the current rules,” says Krnáčová.
The mayor has no problem with the way the service itself works. “The offices and a majority of the politicians want the service to keep operating, but in agreement with the laws,” she says. In most European countries, the service operates with professional drivers and follows the legal norms. “If Uber followed the same conditions as in the other European countries, there would be no problem,” says the mayor.
According to Uber, the decision of the EU court only means that the individual member states can decide how they will regulate such services. “In the majority of EU lands, we fully operate in accordance with the local transportation laws as a regulated transport company, but these reflect modern digital technologies and service,” says the company spokeswoman, Miroslava Jozová.
According to lawyer Jiří Kindl, who represents Uber, the European court did not say that Uber is a taxi-service. “The court stated that Uber is a service in the field of transport and therefore the electronic trade regulations, information company regulations and other regulations do not apply from the member states,” he said.
Uber is not in a legal vacuum
The supreme administrative court proclaimed in the past that “the transport of persons carried by drivers that use the UberPOP application does not take place in a legal vacuum. Any use of modern technology solutions and alternative economic forms does not automatically mean that their operations are not subjected to any rules.”
A yet-to-be-released government analysis of the shared economy in the field of public transport from last autumn tells us that Uber does not fulfil its tax obligations, namely Uber fee VAT payments and road tax. Uber also does not publish information about drivers that work for it, which creates space for tax evasion.
The analysis also states that equal business conditions are not maintained in the market of public transport services. This material also suggests that Uber drivers drive on the border of loss rate and their profit, after deducting all expenses, often does not even reach 100 Czech crowns per hour.
Taxi drivers protest against Uber
Prague taxi drivers have been protesting against the service for a long time. Last year, they organized numerous protests. According to them, Uber is unfair competition.
In September of last year, a group of taxi drivers attacked an Uber driver in a parking lot in front of Prague Airport. One of the taxi drivers took his phone and broke his windscreen. The conflict lasted several days; the taxi drivers would drive out the Uber drivers and stick “illegal transport” stickers on their cars.
At the beginning of October, the taxi drivers organized a slow drive in the area of the airport as a form of protest, interfering with the traffic in a significant way.
The municipality regularly carries out inspections of both Uber and taxi drivers. In case of Uber drivers, it gives out fines in basically all cases, as they do not fulfil the requirements for taxi service, such as having a visible marking or a taximeter.
The Uber service should be an alternative to taxis. Anyone can call a driver through a mobile app in their phone, who will then take them to the desired address. The drivers either work for the company or as self-employed in their own cars. The number of such drivers in Prague is around 2000 – and there are around 8300 taxi drivers in the capital.