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Monday, 5 March 2018

Amsterdam taxi drivers are planning an attack on Uber’s headoffice in The Netherlands. Are these taxi drivers the “Dutch Sons of Anarchy”? Or is this in fact a shocking testimony for the moral bankruptcy of a company like Uber?!

It was perhaps quite shocking, but in fact not really surprising news from the Amsterdam area this morning.

According to  Dutch newspaper AD, the Amsterdam taxi-drivers are allegedly planning an attack upon the head office of Uber in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The AD discovered a private newsgroup on Telegram with 300 anonymous members, in which the plan was plotted to execute a coordinated attack on the Uber HQ, with bricks, fireworks and molotov cocktails, as they wrote in this article:

The attack upon the headoffice of Uber in Amsterdam is planned on March 20th, at 16.00 hour CET, according to a recent call in messenger service Telegram. “Everything and everybody is welcome. Bring bricks, fireworks and molotov cocktails with you!”

The AD discovered this call in the Telegram group “WegMetUber” (i.e. UberGoAway), that was founded mid February and has roughly 300 anonymous members as of now. 

Behind the call is a group of infuriated Amsterdam taxi drivers, according to insiders in the industry. They think that internet service Uber competes unfairly with the regular taxi industry, for the reason of having a non-level playing field.

Among the members are Uber drivers, who strongly disagree with Uber’s 25% commission claim on the fare of the trip. “The customer is king and the chauffeurs are f*cking dogs and slaves. Uber is more and more pushing me to the edge!”, it sounds.

By causing as much unrest as possible, the initiators hope that Uber will become prohibited in The Netherlands, as happened in London recently.

Let me start by stating the obvious that this call to action is totally outrageous, irresponsible and straightforwardly dangerous! This action could cause people being seriously hurt or even killed, when it is indeed executed with the means mentioned in the Telegram message.

I also have to mention that the Amsterdam taxi market is one of the most competitive in The Netherlands and has quite a history of aggressive and violent actions between (groups of) drivers, fought out in broad daylight. This, together with multiple cases of passenger embezzlement (i.e. mostly tourists - EL) and (in a few cases) even extortion over the last few decades, makes that the alarm bells should ring fiercely after this news.

With that out of the way, I want to say the following: taxi drivers in Amsterdam always had to buy priceless licenses for their taxis – to the tune of tens of thousands of euros – in order to be allowed to drive passengers around in Amsterdam.

Together with a comfortable luxury car of > €60,000, their initial investment to start their taxi business was often well over €120,000. That is a helluva investment for a new small business and one that needs to be earned back in a limited amount of time, as the license prolongation costs and the amortisation on their car are annual expenses.

Then suddenly a foreign company – Uber – comes around, seemingly out of nowhere, that delivers the same service without licenses at a fraction of the price (and the expenses). And this company is clotting up the city with numerous anonymous taxis that snatch thousands of passengers per week, away from the official taxis that have to meet all kinds of conditions and obligations to do their job.

Is it a wonder that those taxi drivers feel infuriated?!

I fully understand that and sympathize therefore with the Amsterdam taxi drivers, who have to deal with this ordeal on a daily basis. Therefore this is not a simple case of market disruption, what Uber does here. Just as certain as the usage of doping in sports is not a simple disruption of the situation in a sports match.

It is foul play to these eyes... and it is done to a vulnerable group of small, individual entrepreneurs with an uncertain, risky business and very high annual expenses.

These small entrepreneurs are threatened to be crushed by a worldwide American multinational with billions of dollars on its bank accounts and nearly unlimited lobby power. A multinational moreover, that did not scare away from bending or even breaking the rules all over Europe, when they thought that to be in their interests.

Perhaps the most disturbing paragraph in the article is the red and bold paragraph. This one concerned the Uber taxi drivers themselves and their outcry should be taken to heart by the people in charge in The Netherlands:
  • There is no level playing field at all between Uber and their taxi drivers. The drivers have nothing to say or negotiate with Uber. They can just take what they get or forget it...;
  • The drivers actually have to pay 25% fare commission to Uber, which is really an awful lot of money, in comparison for what they get back for it;
  • They have nothing to say about the fare price and the type of customers, as everything is decided and calculated in advance by Uber and accepted by the customers;
  • When the taxi drivers suffer from traffic jams, redirections and closed streets, their extra kilometers are neither paid for by the customer nor by Uber. They run the risks, but hardly get the revenues of their efforts;
  • On top of that Uber has a horrible reputation for a.o. spying on taxi drivers, irrespective of it are their own drivers or those of the competition.
This is not the free market at work, but a bad caricature of it.

Therefore I hope that the taxi drivers are so sensible to forget this outrageous and idiotic action against the Uber headquarters, now that they have attracted national attention with it. They are not the Dutch Sons of Anarchy and should not behave like that; especially as some taxi drivers have already a problem with their own image.

In exchange, however, the politicians in charge on local and national levels should finally take the complaints of the taxi drivers serious and see to it that both licensed taxi drivers and Uber drivers get a level playing field with equal chances and regulation for everyone.

On top of that the Uber drivers should be protected from bad practices like “fare sharking” and being spied upon by Uber itself, as these practices seem testimonies for the moral bankruptcy of this company.

Instead the Uber drivers should have legal protection, as well as a mandatory drivers’ council with legally demarcated influence on the national decision making processes of Uber. And especially upon issues like trip pricing, charging unavoidable extra kilometers to the customers and the height of commission payments to Uber.

As far as I’m concerned, it is either this for Uber or a total prohibition for this company in The Netherlands. Before really serious accidents happen...

4 comments:

  1. Finally. The end of uber! Uber is abusing the drivers and is good that they realise it now. I find it a better solution to strike and get rid of uber without any form of violence. Uber has no place in our society.

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