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Uber taxi protests spread to Portugal

Published on 08/09/2015

Hundreds of taxi drivers blocked roads Tuesday in Lisbon and other Portuguese cities, the latest in a string of protests worldwide against US-based taxi app Uber.

Recent months have seen a flurry of protests by drivers against the controversial smartphone-based taxi service amid claims Uber provides unfair competition by flouting rules and restrictions that regulate professional vehicles.

Uber launched in Lisbon a year ago but Antral, one of Portugal’s main drivers’ associations, obtained earlier this year a civil court ruling preventing the firm operating nationwide.

But the ruling was filed against Uber’s US-based, rather than Europe-based, incarnation.

As some 400 drivers blocked thoroughfares including a main road to Lisbon airport and several hundred more drivers demonstrated in the northern city of Porto and Faro in the south, Antral slammed Uber for “illegally” continuing to operate, Lusa news agency reported.

Antral, seeking to mobilise around 1,500 of 3,500 of Lisbon’s taxi drivers, said Uber was “continuing to work as before” the court ruling was handed down.

The Portuguese protests come in the wake of similar complaints elsewhere in Europe, the United States and India.

Uber resumed its Indian operations in January after last year being banned following a rape allegation against one of its drivers.

June saw angry scenes in Paris, resulting in rioting by taxi drivers and the arrest of two Uber executives.

The company responded by suspending its lower cost UberPOP service.

Unions representing taxis in Brussels have called a strike for September 16, with drivers from other European capitals also expected to participate.

Uber is currently awaiting a French court decision it hopes will strike down a law passed by the French government that sharply restricts its activities.