Monday, 23 October 2017

Up to 1200 Prague taxi drivers protest against Uber

ČTK |
3 October 2017

Prague, Oct 2 (CTK) - Up to 1200 taxi drivers participated in a protest against their rival Uber ride-hailing service by blocking the main access roads to and from the international airport in Prague on Monday, David Bednar, from the Association of Czech Taxi Drivers, has told CTK.

The taxi drivers, who launched their protest ride around 10:30, call Uber practices unfair and unlawful.

Using a cell phone application, people can call an Uber driver to take them where needed. Uber says it does not offer taxi services but a shared drive on the principle of shared economy.

The Transport Ministry reacted to the protest saying it is preparing an amendment to the relevant bill that would make the mobile application, used by Uber, and the speedometer, used by taxi cars, equal to each other.

"We cannot ban modern applications and services, only everyone must observe the same rules. This applies to both taxis and Uber. The former have gained a bad reputation by their overpriced services and controversial behaviour, and now they fear competition. The latter violate the law, speaking of shared drives but in fact running a business without any licence or car insurance that are required from taxi drivers," Minister Dan Tok told CTK.

The protesters say the drivers working for Uber breach laws by driving customers without having a taxi-service licence their cars registered as taxi or equipped without speedometers and a luminous taxi top sign.

About 5,000 taxi cars operate in the 1.5-million Prague, while some 2,000 drivers work for Uber, 1,100 for the rival Liftago company and an unspecified number for Taxify, another similar firm. However, some drivers work for more operators based on mobile applications and classical taxi services simultaneously.

The City Hall has set the maximum price for taxis 28 crowns per kilometre plus 40 crowns as one-off tariff, while Uber asks 9.90 crowns per kilometre plus 25 crowns as one-off tariff.

However, Uber's prices include two to three crowns for a minute of drive. This price applies to rush hours and it can double in other hours of the day, Miroslava Jozova, from the company, told CTK.

The protest the taxi drivers launched on Monday is not time-limited and it might last for a few days, the organisers said.

Before the protest, Prague Mayor Adriana Krnacova met a representative of the Czech Taxi Drivers' Association, who later said they only repeated each their own stance. Krnacova reiterated that the taxi drivers should turn to the state.

The Prague Public Transport Company has agreed with the airport that public buses may drive on the airport area if need be. They use another access road than other means of transport, including taxis.

Krnacova told taxi drivers that Prague had no powers to ban Uber and that a meeting of the Government Office's expert group to seek solutions was scheduled for Thursday.

Taxi drivers partially admitted that the solution was up to the government and the respective ministries, but they set out for their protest ride anyway, Krnacova said.

They thereby want to exert pressure on the responsible institutions and express their view that Uber was violating laws.

Some 70 taxi drivers in Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, drove to the local airport on Monday in support of the protest of their Prague counterparts on Monday.

A court issued a preliminary ruling to ban Uber in Brno.

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