Transport ministry inspectors from the taxi inspection service IL&T on Thursday lunchtime raided the Amsterdam offices of online taxi service Uber, a move the US company described as a ‘warning to international start-ups’ not to set up shop in the Dutch capital.
The raid was part of an investigation into UberPOP, a service which allows unlicenced drivers to offer taxi services and which has been branded illegal in the Dutch courts. A ministry spokesman told website nu.nl inspectors wanted access to the entire Uber administration system to find out how many private drivers work for the UberPOP service. Despite the court ruling and fines totalling €100,000 (the legal maximum which has already been reached), Uber has expanded the UberPOP service from Amsterdam into Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. Several drivers have also been fined. “We note that the drivers are still active, despite the fines,” the ministry spokesman said. “As regulator, we want them to stop. Having total insight will allow us to adapt our measures to ensure the law is adhered to.”
Uber said in a reaction that the inspectors’ action is a “warning to international start-ups, technology companies and multinationals that their investments in the Netherlands may not be welcome and that their customer data is not safe”. The US start-up is referring to fresh initiatives from the city’s administration to make Amsterdam an international hub for innovative IT start-ups. Uber says it is prepared to create thousands of jobs in the Netherlands and strengthen the Dutch economy. “Uber hopes the government will see the advantages and embrace innovation rather than protect the vested interests which limit the choice of travellers.” A sinister and hardly veiled threat to this Amsterdam initiative to create an innovation hub in the Dutch capital. One of the driving forces behind that approach is former EU Commissioner Neelie Smit, who, whilst in Brussels, warmly welcomed the illegal activities of UberPOP in Brussels. Amsterdam is an important cog in the Uber-wheels, as it is not only Uber’s Netherlands HQ, but Uber BV is also the company’s financial hub in Europe, undoubtedly because of the favourable Dutch taxi laws. Apart from that, a large part of Uber’s mobile development office is set up in partnership with an Amsterdam IT-developer.
• Government inspectors raid one of Uber’s main national and international hubs: Amsterdam. Photo: rtvnh.nl