Uber to pull out of Denmark, blaming new taxi law

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Uber says it will pull out of Denmark next month, on April 18, blaming a new taxi law that includes requirements such as mandatory fare meters and seat sensors.

While traditional cabs are likely already kitted out with the required tech, Uber’s service relies on drivers using their own vehicles as taxis, and smartphones as meters, so it would be harder for the company to comply.

Uber had previously vowed to stay and fight for deregulation in Denmark, with an incoming liberal government suggesting in December that it might seek to make changes to existing taxi laws. So it’s entirely possible Uber is hoping that announcing the withdrawal now will apply some last-minute pressure on regulators for a rethink.

An Uber spokesman told us that in order for the company to operate in the market “the proposed regulations need to change”, adding that Uber will continue to “work with the government” in the hopes of effecting such a change.

In a statement, Uber added: “Unfortunately, due to the upcoming changes in regulations, we have been left with no choice but to close the service. Our top priority is supporting the drivers who use Uber during this difficult time. We will continue to work with the government in the hope that they will update their proposed regulations and again enable Danes to enjoy the benefits of modern technologies like Uber.”

Uber says it has more than 2,000 drivers in Denmark and 300,000 users of its ride-hailing app.  The spokesman said will be providing “dedicated resources” to assist drivers throughout the shutdown process. Uber launched in the country in 2014.

The company also employs some 40 engineers in the country, based in Aarhus, who it says work on its tech globally. It says it has no plans to close this development operation — indeed, it hints at future expansions, which may also be a not-so-subtle attempt to play politics with local lawmakers.

Uber has already faced challenges in Denmark, with its European business indicted in a Danish court last December on charges of assisting two drivers of breaking local taxi laws.

Regulators and judges in other European markets have also caused Uber to reverse course. Though the company also saw off a 2015 High Court challenge in the UK, brought by the local taxi industry, which had tried to argue that Uber should be regulated as a taxi business as its use of smartphones constituted use of a taximeter. The judge disagreed.

A Europe-wide judgement on the question of how Uber’s business should be regulated is expected later this year, after the region’s top court was asked to provide a ruling on whether it’s a taxi company or a tech platform.