Italian Court Ruling Brings Uber's Drive Over Legislation To A Crashing Halt
For all that the concept of taxi-hailing or ride-sharing, using a smartphone app to match riders and drivers, makes perfect sense when done properly; Uber's continued willingness to ignore local legislation and fight its battles in court after the fact has been just one facet of the company's generally unpleasant behaviour.
On top of accusations of industrial espionage, misogyny and bigotry to the very top of the company; a comprehensive legal defeat in Italy's courts is just another blow to the company's reputation and place in public opinion.
The verdict, which gives Uber just ten days to cease operations in the country, comes as a result of an earlier action to prevent the company setting up in Milan. Two years ago Taxi companies took action at what they characterised as anti-competitive behaviour. This week Italian courts agreed and blocked the company nationwide - extending a Milanese court's ban from UberPOP to all Uber services in the process.
Italy has a strictly regulated taxi market, ensuring a level of safety and security; and a guarantee of service to riders. The license costs are severe and it is the avoidance of these costs which is deemed to be at odds with Italian competition law.
Uber has two options now. Withdraw all unlicensed services and comply with Italian law before re-entering the market, or ignore the ban, appeal and carry on trading pending a verdict. Given the Roman courts non-compliance fine of €10,000 per day that could get to be a very expensive option. Not least because the Italian legal system isn't the fastest in the world.
It's an interesting point of debate for Italians, whose working practices have been at odds with the rest of Europe forever. A country less likely to embrace the gig economy I can't think of. With the current push from right-wing groups for Italy to follow the UK out of the EU, badly handled immigration and the likelihood that Uber drivers will be immigrants displacing mostly native taxi licence holders; I suspect the Italian Government will back the Roman courts verdict rather than enact law to reverse it.
The tide seems to be turning against Uber and, like King Canute, the king's robes are getting awfully wet and ragged as it rages against the power of the sea.