Uber going under (2)

Some time ago, I wrote about the seizure of some UberPop vehicles in Brussels.

In the meantime, the battle has become more serious: a few of the official Brussels taxi companies took Uber to Court and the latter ruled 2 days ago that Uber will have to pay an indemnity of € 10.000,- per breach of Brussels’ taxi regulation. Or to put it simple: € 10.000,- per executed trip.

I will not start analysing the (in)famous Brussels taxi regulation at this point (maybe later), but let’s have look at 2 basic principles often ignored by Belgian Courts: jurisdiction and admissibility of the claim.

Jurisdiction: first of all, one can question on which grounds the Belgian Courts would have jurisdiction in this case.  Even when we would consider Uber’s activities as delivery from services, one has to take a close look at the exact contents of these services.  In my opinion, it would be too easy to state that because the UberPop cars drive around in Brussels, Uber itself delivers services directly on Belgian territory.  All drivers are independent drivers who only use Uber as a sort of virtual dispatcher.  One can question whether these dispatching services can simply be localised where drivers are using them or should be localised where Uber performs/organizes them (probably California, USA).  In the latter case, one could argue against the jurisdiction of Belgian Courts.

Admissibility: to bring a claim before Court under Belgian law, the claimant is not the only one who needs to have a certain quality, but also the plaintiff.  Just as one who has no interest at all cannot file a writ, one also can’t file a writ against somebody with no connection to the issue.  Given the nature of the business model of Uber (independent drivers), one can question whether or not the Court ruled the penalty against the right party.  Firstly, one could argue – similar to the pleas of the people behind the Peer2Peer programs – that Uber itself does nothing illegal by just offering dispatching services.  It are actually the drivers themselves who break the law (even if…).  Moreover, as those drivers are all independent, one could question whether the Court can hold Uber responsible and that it’s even impossible for Uber to stop any possible breach (which would be a ground to overrule the accorded penalties).  You could say that Uber can stop it all by just shutting everything off in Belgium, but then again nobody forced the internet providers to shut the internet down because of illegal downloading from (independent) users.

To be continued…