Hungary aiming to drive Uber ride-hailing app out of country

AP News
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Posted: May 02, 2016 10:17 AM
Hungary aiming to drive Uber ride-hailing app out of country

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The Hungarian government wants to drive out ride-hailing app Uber from the country while proposing new legislation to crack down on unlicensed passenger transport, officials said Monday.

Taxi drivers have held several demonstrations against Uber and unlicensed drivers, slowing traffic in Budapest and petitioning authorities to ban the U.S. company, whose European headquarters are in Amsterdam.

Uber was "consciously and cynically breaking every Hungarian law," said Janos Fonagy, state secretary at the Ministry of National Development. "The aim is to make impossible in Hungary the activities of this company which ignores the rules, and totally oust them from Hungary."

The government has proposed new legislation increasing penalties for unlicensed drivers — who could lose their license for up to six months and their cars for up to three years — and banning apps like Uber for up to a year.

Fonagy said after a meeting with representatives of 16 taxi companies and transportation groups that parliament was expected to approve proposals later this month. He also urged taxi drivers to meet users' demands, for example, by increasing the use of apps.

Earlier, Uber said the planned rules, which could affect 1,200 drivers and 150,000 users, could be unconstitutional and violate EU law.

"This unprecedented proposal destroys much-needed jobs ... and will cut the country off from exciting digital developments being embraced across Europe and the world," Zoltan Fekete, Uber's general manager in Hungary, said in a statement.

For their part, taxi drivers said they planned to go ahead with a protest scheduled for Tuesday afternoon which would block traffic on roads in downtown Budapest, including the Chain and Liberty bridges, which span the Danube River.

"There is nothing new in the government proposals. We've heard these promises before," protest organizer Geza Gottlieb said. "The only thing authorities would really need to do is enforce existing regulations."

Uber Technologies, Inc. is based in San Francisco.