Publication date: 23/02/2019
After concluding to the unlawfulness of UberPop in 2015, the commercial court of Brussels rendered a decision in December 2018 casting some doubt as to the lawfulness of UberX. The combination of both decisions lead to differing interpretations as to whether UberX and/or its drivers are subject to the legal framework on taxi services, the application of which would jeopardize the very heart of UberX’ business model.
In 2018, 24 taxi companies filed a new claim against Uber and 9 Uber drivers to obtain a cease and desist order under penalty of 1,000,000 EUR per day of infringement. Early 2019, the commercial court turned down this claim by confirming that neither UberX nor the drivers are subject to the legal framework on taxi services. The court concluded that the drivers must abide by all obligations pertaining to the renting of a car with driver, a distinct and less burdensome legal framework than that applying to taxi services, and concluded that the drivers are not in violation of any of their legal obligations (with the exception of one driver, whose car was considered below legal standards). The claimants also asked the court to confirm that the drivers are in fact employees of Uber as opposed to independent contractors. The court turned down this claim by considering that the drivers choose when and where they work, choose for how long they drive, can take or ignore trips, own or rent their own cars and can complete other work or jobs as it suits them.
This decision, if confirmed in appeal, could protect Uber against claims from its drivers working in Belgium arguing that they are owed employee benefits such as minimum wage and holiday pay or against claims by the social security administration for payment of employer and employee social security contributions on the drivers’ income. It remains to be seen whether this decision could also protect other companies in the so-called gig economy against said claims.