The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment (I&M) was ‘not amused’ when Uber suddenly launched the pirate taxi service UberPOP in Amsterdam at the end of July. Especially whilst the ministry was still discussing the legal pro’s and con’s of the Uber Black and Lux-services with the technology company. Months before the evaluation of the Passenger Transport Act 2000 (WPV 2000) Uber sprang an unpleasant surprise on the country’s taxi regulators, just when there seemed to be a chance that these legal services (using taxis and legal taxi drivers) might actually be made to fall within the scope of the law. Uber CEO Niek van Leeuwen denies there is any legislation with regard to UberPOP and finds the law unclear and outdated. Van Leeuwen does not expect the national regulator to act on UberPOP before the legal assessment is made this autumn. Van Leeuwen thinks there is room in the amended law for concepts such as UberPOP.
Since July 30 UberPOP (already banned in Brussels, Seoul, Berlin and temporarily in Hamburg) is available “for a selected group of Amsterdam inhabitants” as a mobility-testcase to increase the use of the existing car fleet in the Dutch capital: “Uber works exclusively with the best drivers; who are in possession of clean, new and safe cars; fully insured and who comply with all laws and regulations.” Drivers must be 21 years and over with a car not older than model year 2005. Uber cheekily promises that “the results of the pilot will be offered to the Amsterdam Mayor and city council and the Ministry of Infrastructure & Environment.” Despite repeated questions to Van Leeuwen and Uber’s Amsterdam PR-agency Burson Marsteller, pertinent questions about the duration of the trial and the way in which drivers and vehicles are being insured, were not answered, other than with a reference to the relevant blog: “where all information can be found.” No, not really. Even after extensive searching we found no clear answers to our specific questions. When we indicate that we are missing some answers, the agency replies laconically: “All information about uberPOP is on the blog. If you cannot find something, it may well be that some questions do not apply to UberPOP.” That Uber provides no clear answers about the way in which UberPOP drivers and users are insured, is worrying. Experts in the Netherlands, in Germany and before that especially in the USA fear the uncertainties about Uber’s UberPOP insurance. That Uber provides no clear answers should already be giving some cause for concern.
• Uber extends the Black and Lux-services in Amsterdam with UberPOP. Photo: Uber.