Dutch authorities have started fining ride-hailing service Uber Technologies €10,000 (about US$11,200) every time they catch a driver using the UberPop service, which is banned in the Netherlands.
The ban on UberPop, a service that lets people hail a ride from private drivers in their own cars for a fee, was upheld by a Dutch court in December because the service competes unfairly with strictly regulated taxi services.
The court imposed a €10,000 fine on Uber for every time one of its UberPop drivers is caught violating the ban, up to a maximum of €100,000. UberPop drivers themselves risk a maximum fine of €4,200 for a first offense operating as an unlicensed taxi driver, although in practice the prosecutor has asked for a fine of €1,500. The fine for a second offense can be as high as €10,000.
Since the court's December verdict, one UberPop driver has been caught, and only one fine has been issued, a spokeswoman for the Dutch government's transport inspection (ILT) said Friday. The fine was issued shortly after the ruling and has not yet been paid by Uber, which has six weeks to do so, she said, adding that Uber can still appeal the fine.
The Dutch government doesn't seem to be in a hurry to crack down on UberPop, even though Uber vowed to continue operating the service while lobbying politicians to update taxi laws in its favor. Before the appeal ruling, four UberPop drivers were caught, and a quick look in the Uber app suggested that there were at least three UberPop cars available in the Eastern part of Amsterdam on Friday afternoon.
Uber, which also operates the Uber Black and Uber Lux services that do use licensed taxi drivers in the Netherlands, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company is having a tough time operating UberPop throughout Europe, where the service has been banned in Brussels, Spain and France and also faces opposition in several German cities. However, there too Uber vowed to keep operating the service while trying to get laws changed in its favor.
Meanwhile, it has started a charm offensive in an effort to woo European cities by promising 50,000 new jobs in Europe from its service in 2015 alone.
Uber is also trying to get out of trouble in other parts of the world, including India. On Thursday, it applied for a license in Delhi to get back on the roads after it was banned there in December because one of its drivers allegedly raped a female passenger.
Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org