Hungarian lawmakers approve running Uber off the road

By bne IntelliNews June 13, 2016

The Hungarian parliament passed legislation on June 13 that will allow authorities to block sites offering illegal taxi services for up to a year. The move is planned to push ride-sharing service Uber from Hungarian roads.

The passing of the bill appears to represent the end of a growing battle between Uber and Budapest. The government's stance has been hardened by protests by drivers from traditional taxi operators, who have regularly blocked major thoroughfares in the capital this year. Already under pressure from demonstrations by teachers and nurses, the ruling Fidesz party was never very likely to abandon its populist stance by giving Uber a pass.

The proposal, submitted by Development Minister Miklos Sesztak, orders that the country's transport authority "make temporarily inaccessible" applications and websites that promote illegal taxis. The bans can be enacted on the IT systems of companies lacking a licence to offer taxi services should the company continue to operate following an order from the authorities, reports Portfolio.hu.

The blocking of the IT will be organised and monitored by the National Media and Telecommunications Authority. All service providers must comply, on pain of a fine of up to HUF200,000 (€640), which can be levied repeatedly in the case of non-compliance. 

The bill was also earlier reported to contain measures to directly punish unlicensed taxi drivers. Under that part of the legislation, Uber drivers could be stripped of their driving licence for six months if caught, and for up to three years upon repeated offence. Authorities will also be empowered to remove from circulation the cars used by drivers for unlicensed passenger transport.

It's unclear how Uber will react to the passing of the bill, which was submitted to parliament in mid-May. The company recently told bne IntelliNews of its efforts to compromise with Budapest. An official at the development ministry claimed in late May that the government does not want to ban Uber, but to "fall in line" with legislation that creates equal competition for all taxi companies. 

At the same time, the European Commission made clear in early June that it does not approve of bans for the ride-sharing service. Issuing guidance entitled "A European agenda for the collaborative economy" the EU executive said it aims "to support consumers, businesses and public authorities to engage confidently" in the sharing economy. 

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