Norwegian police claim that the Uber “personal transport” service, which uses an app to connect drivers with passengers needing rides, amounts to a pirate taxi service and is illegal in Norway. Prosecutors now intend to try to halt it.
“Our clear starting point is that this form of personal transport, which is operated without necessary approvals, is unlicensed and completely at odds with the law,” prosecutor Arne Waldemar Nielsen told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN).
Drivers ‘should not feel secure’
The City of Oslo reported Uber, which has been operating in Oslo for several months, to the police late last year. DN reported that while Uber has built up a market, little has happened regarding how taxi-type services are regulated. The state transportation ministry, however, has expressed that it views Uber as illegal in Norway under existing law.
Now the prosecutors have reached their own conclusion, and it’s not in Uber’s favour. “Those who drive (for Uber) should be aware that unlicensed operation is something we normally react to,” Nielsen told DN. “These drivers should not feel secure.”
Several other countries are also evaluating the legality of Uber’s operation, which has sparked strong protests from conventional taxi services that are licensed and regulated. Germany has also concluded that Uber Pop is illegal, while state authorities in Denmark and Canada have filed suit against it. Authorities in California have determined that Uber is in fact an employer and not just part of a contract between two parties. That means Uber drivers should receive employee benefits such as health insurance and pension plans, which would result in huge new costs for Uber. Several other states in the US have determined, meanwhile, that Uber drivers are independent contractors and not employees.
‘Within the framework’
Carl Edvard Endresen, the head of Uber in Norway, denies the driving service is illegal. “We maintain that we operate within the framework that existing laws allow,” Endresen wrote in an email sent to DN by Uber’s communications department. “In addition, we have a constructive dialog with the relevant authorities regarding the advantages Uber can bring to Oslo, including reduced traffic and lower carbon emissions.”
Endresen wrote that Uber will “of course” support its “partner drivers.” Uber also has been encouraged by a recent court ruling in Stavanger, in which drivers for a similar service called Haxi were acquitted of charges they violated the law, on the grounds that the trips they drove did not fall under the definition of transport services directed at the general public and offered at a public place.