Budapest, July 13 (MTI) – Ride-hailing service Uber will suspend its operations in Budapest effective July 24 in response to government legislation that the company says will make it impossible for it to operate, the operative director for Uber’s business in Hungary said on Wednesday.
Zoltán Fekete told a press conference that under the legislation that enters into force later this month, Uber drivers could have their drivers’ licences revoked and their cars’ number plates removed even if they have all the permits required to provide their service. Uber has around 1,200 drivers in Budapest, Fekete noted.
Fekete said Uber had been pursuing dialogue with policy makers from the start of their dispute with the government. He said the company had made several proposals but there had been no openness and willingness expressed by policy makers to address them.
Uber’s services are being suspended indefinitely, he said in response to a question. The company intends to continue working with decision makers on amending passenger transport regulations. If regulations change — which will be up to lawmakers — Uber could resume its operations, Fekete said.
He said Uber would look into what other types of services it could offer in Budapest.
Fekete said the company had complied with all of the sector’s regulations: Uber drivers had obtained tax numbers allowing them to provide an invoice after every trip and secured permits from the transportation authority. Drivers whose cars did not pass the extensive inspections prescribed by the regulations were not allowed to operate as Uber drivers, he added.
Last month, Hungary’s parliament approved legislation allowing local authorities to block the websites of companies that offer illegal taxi services for up to 365 days. The law followed months of protests against Uber by Budapest taxi drivers who had been demanding that the government ensure a level playing field in the passenger transport market. Fekete said the banning or blocking of so-called sharing economy services was unacceptable under the recently-published European Commission guidelines aimed at helping member states apply EU laws to such companies. He noted that Finland, Romania, Lithuania and Estonia had all recently introduced regulations for sharing economy companies that are compatible with their legal systems.
Uber served about 160,000 customers in Budapest, most of them 20-35-year-olds, he said.
The national development ministry said in a statement that it “acknowledges Uber’s decision to leave Hungary rather than to agree to operate legally and compete fairly on the market with tax-paying Hungarian taxi drivers and to pay taxes itself”.
“The government supports innovative solutions, but is committed to ensuring that players on the passenger transport market operate according to the law and pay taxes under equal terms,” it said.
“Uber acquired an edge over other market competitors by dodging taxes and disregarding rules and regulations,” the ministry added.