Milan, May 26 - Taxi drivers won a landmark ruling on Tuesday banning international transportation network company Uber from operating its controversial UberPop app in Italy on grounds of unfair competition. A Milan court gave the American multinational a fortnight to suspend use of its low-cost service, which effectively allows users to be ferried around by anyone, regardless of whether they have a professional licence. Services provided by Uber through its UberPop app "interfere with the taxi service orgainsed by companies and provided by licence holders," said Judge Claudio Marangoni, upholding a petition by associations representing taxi drivers who have long been protesting against the company they fear is co-opting their livelihood while sidestepping regulations. The request "for transportation sent by the user through the UberPop app, besides being a technical procedure already in use by taxi cooperatives, can apparently be totally assimilated to the radio taxi service", Marangoni wrote in his ruling. Marangoni also cited the "adverse effects" of UberPop for taxi drivers linked to the expected increase in fares during the course of Expo Milan 2015. "It's a great victory and we didn't do it just for ourselves and our jobs, but also for the safety of customers," said taxi union representative Pietro Gagliardi. "We are truly satisfied with the result," said Marco Giustiniani, a lawyer acting on behalf of the taxi adriver associations that filed the petition. "The Milan court has fully understood the situation, despite its complexity," he added. "In regards to UberPop the Milan court has borne me out: it is unfair competition with taxi drivers. I said it was illegal. The law and common sense prevail," said former transport minister Maurizio Lupi. Drivers expressed criticism of the public institutions, however. "They should have been the ones to help us, not the judges," said a group of taxi drivers in Milan. "We had to go to court for someone to take a decision, no one wanted to take this responsibility," Gagliardi added. "Before going to court we petitioned the municipal and regional authorities and the government, to no avail," he said. Meanwhile consumer association Codacons reacted negatively to the ban, saying it represented "major damage" to consumers. "It limits competition and reduces the choice for citizens," Codacons said. "It is inconceivable that a modern country should be deprived of innovative systems such as Uber, which respond to market demand and exploit the new possibilities offered by technology," Codacons President Carlo Rienzi said. UberPop has already been banned in Spain and the Netherlands, while the company is appealing against similar interdictions in Germany and France.
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