UberX to be parked in Greece after law change

Uber is suspending another international service while it assess whether there’s a business case to continue operations after regulatory changes.

In a blog post announcing the impending suspension of its UberX service in Athens, the company writes: “New local regulations were voted on recently with provisions that impact ridesharing services. We have to assess if and how we can operate within this new framework and so will be suspending uberX in Athens from next Tuesday until we can find an appropriate solution.”

Reuters reports that the new rules in Greece include stipulations for ride-hailing companies including requiring that each trip start and end in the fleet partner’s designated headquarters or parking area — something Uber does not do.

The regulation also requires that a digital registry of all ride-sharing platforms and their passengers is created.

Uber entered the Greek market back in 2015, and says that around 450,000 rides have been booked in the market via its app — so it’s clearly not a major market for the company.

While Uber is suspending its UberX ride-hailing service in Athens (which uses licensed professional drivers working for a licensed fleet partner, per regulatory requirements), it says it will continue running its branded taxi service, UberTaxi (which only accepts licensed taxi drivers) — which does not face the same regulatory roadblocks.

Taxi drivers in Athens staged an anti-Uber strike last month to protest the continued presence of non-professional drivers. Local press reports taxi unions have been pressing for laws to be passed to regulate ride-hailing rivals.

Elsewhere in Europe, Uber has used a professional taxi service offering as a vehicle to return to some markets — reopening an offering in Barcelona last month, for example, after buying private hire vehicle licenses from a local operator.

The Catalan capital remains an attractive market for ride-hailing operators as the host city for several tech conferences, including the world’s largest mobile trade show which attracts 100k+ smartphone wielding visitors every year.

However local taxi associations have also been robust in challenging the legality of the ride-hailing model in Spain. And continue to actively protest app players such as Uber and Cabify encroaching on the market.

In other European markets Uber has withdrawn service entirely — such as Denmark, which it pulled out of a year ago, also blaming a new taxi law.

It also ended UberX in Hungary back in 2016 — claiming government legislation made it impossible to operate there.

While in London, UK — Uber’s most important European market — the company’s license to operate was withdrawn last September, though it can (and is) continuing to operate in the city during the appeals process.

Transport for London cited safety concerns and anti-regulatory activity among its reasons for not renewing Uber’s license. The regulator also recently published a policy statement setting out its priorities for updating regulations to take account of the fast-paced ride-hailing sector — with safety also among its top stated priorities for shaping new rules.

This report was corrected to specify that UberX in Greece was not a p2p service — but drivers must work for a licensed fleet partner