Legal Awards: prizes with prices (3) – same year, another win!

Edith HeadI am definitely on a roll.  After our firm won both International Litigation Law Firm of the year and Distribution Law Firm of the Year in Belgium, it had become time to also polish my personal success and show my colleagues who is responsible for all these cracking Moët&Chandon Imperial Bruts!

As without any effort – and in all honesty, it was without any effort – I could claim our third prize of the year 2014: Litigation Lawyer of the year in Belgium 2014!  No sharing with teams or offices this time, but my own personal 1,6kg crystal materialization of my success… and only for 250 euros (unless I order 10 or more, then they would make me a deal).

Beware, 2015 will see the rise of the Jordan Belfort of Belgian law!

Team of Kocks & Partners at the farewell reception of Mr. Peter Fuchs (AdvantageAustria)

Kocks & Partners have been for many years the preferred lawyer of AdvantageAustria in Brussels, Belgium.  We were happy to be invited at the yearly Christmas reception which was this year also the farewell reception of Mr Peter Fuchs.  Pictures are here.  We are looking forward to continue our cooperation with Mrs Martina Madeo.

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…

Uber going under?

Uber

Last week, there were many reasons to celebrate in Brussels.  Not only did winter 2013-2014 turn out to be one of the warmest winters ever, but also Uber launched its services (finally) in Brussels (albeit only UBERpop).

I have used Uber myself in Paris and was very happy with it.  No stinky cabs, no driving around the same block for the 4th time, no hassle with cash money, no explaining your driver how to drive, no tilting meters after midnight, …

You would think the city of Brussels would welcome Uber, especially after all those stories of fake/real Brussels taxi drivers kidnapping and raping tourists.

But Belgium would not be Belgium if we did not find some rules somewhere that were violated.  Yesterday, the 2 only Uber vehicles in Brussels were seized by the police after a ‘random’ police control.  Authorities in charge say Uber violated following rules:

i. the drivers did not pass the exam (strange… I once had a ‘regular’ taxi driver who neither spoke English, French nor Dutch – I wonder in which language he took his exam)

ii. they don’t follow the price setting (hello non-competition authority?)

iii. the cars are not marked properly (you know… the marks that the kidnapping taxis do have)

Apparently, local Brussels authorities also sent a formal complaint letter to Uber in US to stop all its activities.  Probably drafted in French…