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3 October 2018

Denmark: Supreme Court confirms earlier Uber fines, following the taxi reform

The Danish Supreme Court has confirmed earlier judgements by fining four former Uber drivers for using private vehicles to transport passengers in Copenhagen. Uber had operated unfairly for two and a half years before new taxi legislation was enacted in the spring of 2017. The company’s petition against the law was also unsuccessful, with less than 10 percent of its 300,000 users supporting the appeal.

The Supreme Court confirmed in September 2018 the fines that were charged to Uber drivers for failing to have permits and violating laws introduced to regulate the company. Uber has clashed with taxi drivers, unions and authorities since in 2014 over its use of a strategy of operating as a carpooling system using private cars rather than a taxi company, which allows it to circumvent employment regulations. The new laws were implemented in February 2017 in response to protests that Uber creates an unfair competition by not following the legal standards required for established taxi firms. Following the new licensing rules, as well as requirements for seat sensors and meters, Uber left the country in 2017, and a number of Uber drivers were been fined for breaking local taxi laws.

Nowadays Uber drivers must have seat sensors and fare meters in their cars. The drivers are also obliged to have official permits to transport passengers. The Supreme Court’s decision is paving the way for similar fines on a further 1,500 drivers. Trade union 3F expressed its satisfaction with the Supreme Court’s decision. However, the union calls for authorities to pursue Uber itself and not just its drivers. Earlier on, the union campaigned vigorously to stop the ‘pirate taxis’, with a comic on YouTube. A fictitious Poul Uberman delivered a message to the public that the gig economy will ruin the Nordic model.

In recent years, the social partners started talks about the integration of the sharing economy into the legal codex so that companies like Uber and Airbnb can be absorbed into the Nordic labour market model, while the government is considering measures designed to fold the business concept into its tax and labour laws. It is estimated that about one-fifth of Danes have either offered or consumed the kinds of services provided by Uber and Airbnb, a proportion that is likely to increase. According to the unions, the government’s new sharing economy policy focuses too much on taxation and not enough on workers’ rights.

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