ATHENS – The popular ride-hailing service Uber said it would stop its Uberx service in Greece in the wake of the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition helping cab drivers who want a monopoly and feared competition.
That came after the government imposed conditions on the ride services essentially making it impossible for them to operate, such as limiting how many passengers a day they could take and finies.
“New local regulations were voted on recently with provisions that impact ride-sharing services,” Uber said in a blog post, Reuters and the business newspaper Naftemporiki said in reports on the service’s suspension.
“We have to assess if and how we can operate within this new framework and so will be suspending uberX in Athens from next Tuesday (April 10) until we can find an appropriate solution,” the statement said.
Uber operates two services in Athens: UberX, which uses professional licensed drivers, and UberTAXI, which uses taxi drivers and will continue.
The new regulations require each trip to start and end in the fleet partner’s designated headquarters or parking area, something Uber does not do. A digital registry of all ride-sharing platforms and their passengers will also be created.
The company launched in Europe in 2011, angering some local authorities and taxi drivers who said it did not abide by the same rules on insurance, licensing and safety, said Reuters.
UberX launched in Athens in 2015 and more than 450,000 people have used its smartphone app to book a ride, the agency said. The crackdown to protect the taxi drivers set off protests last year from Uber riders who signed a petition launched by Beat – a Greek local ride-sharing service which has also been hit with restrictions.
UberX drivers have to be employed by fleet partners such as car rental companies or tourist agencies and their cars could not be more than seven years old.
The data registry and return-to-garage requirement will only apply to ride-hailing services like Uber and Beat, while taxi drivers will be able to use cars that are up to 22 years old. As earlier reports said Tsipras, whose popularity has plummeted in polls after reneging on anti-austerity promises, wants to keep the voting bloc of the taxi industry.
In March, taxi drivers walked off the job for nine hours to protest the ride-sharing service Uber, which they claim has been tacitly supported by Greece’s bailout creditors.
Tsipras’ government earlier had reportedly agreed with them and to put a heavy tax and fines on taxi competitors to let them keep a monopoly amid claims of overcharging and rigged meters, especially aimed at tourists.
The powerful greater Athens taxi association, SATA, said creditors had prevented ministers from cracking down on ride-sharing services, which they accuse of “siphoning work away” from license-holding professionals. Last year the association unsuccessfully lobbied for stricter operating limits on popular app-based taxi-ordering services.