Court rules Ubers are taxis

The ruling should allow the city to fine Uber drivers for violating taxi laws

The Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) disagreed with a Municipal Court ruling in the case of an UberPop driver. The driver sued the city because he disputed with a fine from the City Council. The NSS stated that Uber should be considered as a classic taxi service. The case now goes back to the Municipal Court, which should follow the higher court's instructions.

“It is an important decision because the Supreme Administrative Court has upheld our complaint and has returned the issue for a new hearing. We still insist that Uber is a taxi service and must, therefore, follow valid legislation. There is no doubt that there is a need to fix laws, but that does not mean that the existing one can be ignored,” Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) said on the City Hall website.

The Municipal Court, in its original verdict, stated that the driver could not be fined because his activity falls within a shared economy, which is not covered by Czech laws. However, the NSS rejected the reasoning and returned the case for a new hearing.

The NSS ruled that City Hall is following the law concerning inspections of taxis and alternative taxis. Prague has been acting on information from the Ministry of Transport, which stated in September 2014 that drivers using the Uber application must obey the Road Transport Act.

“Carriage of persons made by drivers using UberPop does not take place in a legal vacuum. Whatever advanced technological solutions and alternative economic forms exist, it does not automatically mean that their business is not subject to any rules,” NSS Justice Radan Malík wrote. “The Municipal Court should … assess whether the factual nature of such transport fulfills or does not fulfill the activity that the current legislation knows and regulates.”

City Councilor Patrik Nacher (for ANO) said the decision is important not only from the point of view of Prague in relation to the inspections of all taxi providers, regardless of the way of ordering, but also in terms of essential information for current and potential future drivers using the Uber application.

He says drivers cannot claim that their actions are not regulated by law.

The city is now using the amendments to the Road Transport Act that came into force in early October to fight against rogue taxi drivers. The city has carried out a total of 187 inspections of taxis and Uber drivers to date. From Oct. 1 to 26, the city police officers carried out a total of 1,174 taxi driver checks, according to the City Hall website.

“We've been doing more intense checks for a month. … We check both the taxi drivers and drivers using the Uber application, and the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court shows that we are proceeding properly,” Mayor Krnáčová said.

Uber has also been facing criticism from taxi drivers, who claim it is unfair competition. They have staged two protests including one on Oct. 2 that blocked roads to Václav Havel Airport Prague. They plan another protest Nov. 15, but details have not been disclosed.

Prague Mayor Krnáčová previously said that she does not understand what the taxi drivers want, as there is nothing the city can do to ban Uber completely under current legislation. The law is in the hands of the government. She also said that the demands of the taxi drivers are not clear.

Taxi drivers have long had a bad reputation in Prague. The issue of taxis overcharging people goes back for decades, and many City Hall administrations have tried to tackle the issue. In April this year signs were put up near popular tourist spots to warn people against taking standing cabs and informing people of the proper rates. One sign warned that taxi drivers often charge more than 10 times the official rate, making it one of the highest in Europe.

In 2015, the Czech News Agency reported that one in three taxi drivers overcharged, based on spot checks made by city inspectors.

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