The Netherlands and Portland next to move against Uber

9 Dec 2014

In the latest chapter of ‘(insert city/country name) versus Uber’, the Netherlands and US city of Portland, Oregon, are now playing their hand against the ride-sharing service.

Uber, valued at US$40bn, has been operating in a world of conflict, court cases and embarrassments.

News from the Hague, Netherlands, reported Uber’s app, UberPop, has been accused of breaking a law requiring drivers to have a special licence. It has subsequently been banned, with potential fines to follow.

“This is only the first step in a long-running legal battle,” Uber said in a statement, reported by Reuters. Uber had asked the Dutch court to overturn a government-imposed ban and fines for use of UberPop, the smartphone application used to arrange rides.

“We believe were are offering a service within the spirit of the law. We will continue to offer safe, competitive, quality services to consumers,” said spokesman Thomas van Oortmerssen. Uber could face a fine of €100,000, with drivers fined €10,000 per violation.

Uber said Monday’s Dutch ruling did not address the underlying legality of UberPop and that the decision was based on a law from 2000, when there were no smartphones.

“The law is out of date and that means the technological service we offer had not yet been invented,” van Oortmerssen said. “The law needs to be changed to make it possible and it is now up to the politicians to do that.”

Uber, Portland and a cease-and-desist order

Meanwhile, Portland, Oregon, has issued a cease-and-desist order to Uber and any other Uber entity operating there until the appropriate permits are acquired. The city has filed a lawsuit against the company, as well.

Again Uber is contesting the decision, saying, “Uber has received a tremendously warm welcome from riders and drivers in and around Portland. We appreciate the way residents have welcomed Uber into the Rose City, their support illustrates why it’s time to modernise Portland transportation regulation.”

In fact, Uber’s relationship with Portland has been frosty for awhile now. Uber Seattle GM Brooke Steger said her company decided to launch there without working with regulators because of the “outcry” from both drivers and riders who want Uber in Portland.

“I think launching is not an act of aggression on our part; it’s actually a hope to serve those people’s needs,” Steger said to GeekWire.

“Over the past few months,” reported GeekWire, “Uber has launched in four Oregon cities surrounding Portland, but curiously stayed out of the state’s most popular area. Even though Uber spent the past 18 months trying to come to some sort of agreement with Portland regulators, it appeared that the company was going to play ball with the city — that’s certainly not the case anymore.”

Following yesterday’s news from India of Delhi banning the service following the emergence of a rape case allegedly involving an Uber driver, it’s been a busy week for the start-up’s surely growing legal team.

Well, make that a busy few weeks and months. Uber has been criticised for using its ‘God View’, revealing personal information of customers, as a party trick. It has had to apologise after calling for smear campaigns against critical journalists. 

Uber has faced criticism for its hiring policies and sexist marketing campaigns in some parts of the world. Also, major cities such as Toronto and Berlin have campaigned against the service being available in their jurisdictions.

Amsterdam image via Shuttertstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic