The Register has reported that an ongoing investigation by the Finnish police has ruled that Uber drivers are breaking Finnish laws. The reason is that all taxi drivers in Finland, including Uber drivers, must obtain a permit to operate legally but the application process is long and complicated. Some Uber drivers were discovered to be bypassing the application process due to their desperation to earn money quickly. According to Fast Company, the permits also require drivers to meet annual quotas, which are difficult for most Uber drivers to meet as they are only working part time for additional income. The consequences of being caught driving an Uber car without a permit are giving up any earned income to the government.
Rather than fight the court ruling, Uber’s Finnish division UberPOP has instead decided to cancel their services in Finland, although its licenced UberBLACK operators are permitted to continue. This is only a temporary move, however, as new taxi regulations come into force in 2018 which will allow the company to continue operations in Finland. Under the new regulations, permits will still be required but there won’t be a cap for the number issued each year and current fare restrictions and quotas will be removed. Uber staff in the current Helsinki office will remain and support is reportedly being offered to any drivers who will be affected by the temporary ban.
Since its launch in 2009, Uber has transformed personal travel by allowing any qualifying drivers to earn money through the app and offering customers a quicker, cheaper, and easier alternative to taxi services. It has reached the point that ‘Uber’ is frequently used as a verb and not just a company name by some people. However, the threat to the taxi industry has caused controversy and legal ramifications since the app’s launch. Uber has already pulled out of several countries, cities, and US states due to their individual legal restrictions.
Taxi drivers in multiple cities have protested against Uber and similar companies for affecting their livelihoods and allowing drivers to operate without licences. Some have even attacked Uber drivers and their customers. Counter arguments, such as a long essay on Ridester, claim that ride-sharing apps are a natural form of progress and meeting supply and demand. Another defense is that taxi companies could better keep up with the competition if they lowered their fares and improved the quality of their cars.
Uber also came under fire and experienced mass boycotts after multiple sexual assault claims, and even a wrongful death claim, against their drivers, with accusations that Uber was not making full background checks on their new drivers.
While this isn’t the end of Uber’s legal controversies, the company does plan to use the incoming regulation change for a relaunch next year, with the hope of re-establishing Uber’s reputation within Finland.