The City of Oslo, as expected, has decided to file charges against the new Uber “personal transport” service, telling website E24.no that Uber lacks legal permission to operate in the Norwegian capital. Uber disagrees and has its supporters in Oslo as well as other cities where it operates.
Uber made its debut in Oslo earlier this month and immediately upset the taxi business, which must obtain licenses from the city to carry passengers. They view Uber, which connects drivers and passengers via a mobile phone app at fares much less than those charged by conventional taxis, as a competitive threat.
Others think Uber may pave the way towards liberalizing Norway’s expensive taxi market, especially at this time of the year when a late-night ride home from a Christmas Party can cost as much as a low-fare airline ticket abroad. After a state secretary in the transport department from the otherwise market-minded Progress Party also claimed Uber was illegal, members of his own party’s youth organization harshly criticized him.
“We welcome Uber to Norway,” Atle Simonsen, leader of the youth group FpU told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). He argued that the state should also welcome Uber, “with open arms,” and instead create a liberalized regulatory framework that allows Uber’s establishment. Simonsen called Uber “much more modern” than the existing taxi business and that Norway’s conservative government should favour deregulation.
Consumer groups also welcome Uber, claiming that Norwegian taxi rules “go back to the time of horse-drawn carriages.” The taxi business can benefit from new competition, claimed Anne Haabeth Rygg of the consumer council Forbrukerrådet.
State transport officials have since said they are reevaluating Norway’s laws regulating the taxi business. “We value these various points of view,” State Secretary Bård Hoksrud of the Progress Party told DN. “We haven’t banned Uber from the market, just made them aware of applicable regulations.” Those regulations now may end up being tested in court.