How to stop the UBER invasion of Europe

uberlogo_large_verge_medium_landscapeIts website makes UBER appear almost altruistic, there just to make your life easier by enabling you to use your smart phone to order and pay for a ride to wherever you want to go at a price you can afford. They are, they say, “better, faster, and cheaper than a taxi.”

Which is odd because what they offer sounds a lot like a taxi service.

Except…

…the cars aren’t licensed

…the drivers can be anyone

…insurance is hit and miss

But that just makes it all more exciting. As UBER puts it, “Welcome To Anything Is Possible”.  Like running a global taxi company while avoiding all those inconvenient things like being legal or paying taxes. Perhaps that ‘s always been the American Dream.

But now UBER are in EuropeA queue of London taxis.. Here, they don’t look like people championing choice. Here, they look like the new, unlovely face of cyber-capitalism.  UBER are part of the On-Demand economy, something that sets out to connect the people with money to the serving poor, the people who don’t have the time to cook for themselves to the people who will drive a pizza bike through the rain because the small amount of money they receive is better than having no money at all. Of course, the real winners from the On-Demand economy are neither the consumers nor the servers but the middleman who connects them and makes money on every lazy purchase and every desperate delivery.

UBER is on a mission to bring their particular brand of cyber-capitalism to Europe. They want to liberate us from the controls placed on us by a governments that force us to pay more than we need to for taxis – sorry – rides.

So far they have come into conflict with the governments in Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium and have caused protests in the UK.

In Europe, we have a long history of regulating the number of taxis so that they can safe, so that the owners and drivers can make a living and so that the local authorities cqn earn tax revenue. Taxi firms in Germany and Switzerland are often family businesses with generations of work behind them. Black Cab drivers in London have to demonstrate that they know the city as well as having to provide a safe, insured car (of course that doesn’t mean they’ll take you south of the river after midnight).

In my view, UBER, are invading Europe under the guise of liberating consumers but will actually destroy jobs. avoid taxes, flout local laws, and still expect a round of applause for  supporting the open market. They are here for the cash and they feel entitled to do whatever it takes to get it.

Haravard Business Review recently wrote “To succeed in Germany, UBER needs to grow up”  The article explains the UBER mindset of ignoring local laws as not relevant. To be fair to UBER, they have woken up to the fact that they are not in San Francisco any more and are now lobbying hard to make governments give them what they want.

In my view, Europe benefits from reminding the tech giants like Microsoft and the cyber-cowboys like UBER that they cannot roll over the laws of European countries

I suggest three steps to dealing with the UBER invasion:

  1. Make the cost of entry prohibitive: fines, legal fees, licensing fees – be as protectionist about this as we are about giving landing rights to American airline companies.
  2. Publicise the negative impact of UBER:  the creation of a new class of working poor – contractors replacing family business – with the tax revenue going to San Francisco rather than your local community
  3. Provide an  ethical alternative: free apps provided the the licensing authorities in each city/country that provide instant service from the Smart phone to REAL taxis and sends a message saying “Thank you for supporting the drivers of our city.”

 

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