Norwegian police warned they’d crack down on personal transport services that lack regulatory approval, and last weekend they did just that. They stopped cars late at night in downtown Oslo and seized the license plates of two suspected of being pirate taxis.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported that at least one of them was driving for Uber, which matches drivers with passengers needing rides via an app on a mobile telephone. Police claimed they would continue to remove plates, rendering them useless, from cars used as taxis without taxi authorization.
“The pirate taxi business is an old problem that we’re cracking down on,” Finn Erik Grønli, leader of the traffic corps of the Oslo Police District, told newspaper Aftenposten. “We don’t make a distinction between traditional pirate taxi operations and Uber when transport occurs without necessary authorization.” Grønli characterized Uber as “a new player in the same (pirate) market.”
According to an Uber spokesman, it was the first time that a car tied to the transport service had been stripped of its plates. “We are surprised over the police action and stand fully behind our driver,” Daniel Bryne of Uber wrote in a mail to Aftenposten. “We maintain that this (the license plate seizure) defies Norwegian court precedent, which was set by a court in Stavanger in June.” Bryne was referring to a case in which drivers for Haxi, a taxi service similar to Uber’s, were acquitted of being taxi pirates because they did not fall under the definition of transort services directed at the general public and offered at a public place.
“We maintain that the police must make a distinction between UberPOP and a pirate taxi,” Bryne told Aftenposten. “A ride with Uber is a secure, simple and cheap transport alternative.” He added that Uber was open to a “constructive dialogue” on “sensible regulation,” that all Uber fares must be paid by bank card (thus providing a financial record of transactions) and that drivers shall pay tax on their earings. Uber chose to view the license plate confiscation as “an isolated incident” that won’t be repeated.