The ban placed on Uber taxi service in the Czech Republic’s second city should not set a precedent to block other parts of the “new economy,” the new minister of industry and trade proclaimed on April 19.
Jiri Havlicek said that efforts to ban similar services, such as Airbnb, would be a bad idea, and regulation must be kept to a minimum. Havlicek was appointed last month by the coalition-leading CSSD after predecessor Jan Mladek was sacked for failing to support the party’s populist bid to raise support ahead of elections in October by fighting high charges levied by telecom companies.
The previous day, a regional court in Brno banned the ‘ride-sharing service’ from the city following a complaint lodged by a local taxi company.
Brno City Hall backed the decision, according to AP. The authority said it is not against mobile applications and new taxi services but insisted that they have to operate in line with the law.
Uber argued it is not a common taxi company but the court ruled that it is. The US company, which had operated in the city since the start of February, can appeal the ruling.
Uber has experienced extremes in reaction to its controversial service in Central & Eastern Europe. The company has been banned in Hungary, but Estonia hopes to be the first country in the world to make it fully legal. Uber still operates in Prague.
The company is also viewed in wildly different ways. To some it is at the forefront of the new economy, which threatens to undermine the grip of traditional elites and incumbents. To critics, Uber simply exploits drivers, and ignores legal and safety requirements, as well as evading tax.
With that in mind, Havlicek was keen to keep to the middle of the road. "We have to approach it rationally and watch the bath water and the baby,” the minister told news portal Seznam Zpravy. “Efforts to ensure that these services are completely banned, which sometimes appear, lead in the wrong direction."
Havlicek added that there is a need to agree on rules, and that companies must pay taxes. "However, I'm not an advocate of too much regulation,” he said.