BlaBlaCar drivers threatened with fines in Spain

Authorities in Spain are probing BlaBlaCar and two drivers using the ridesharing platform for "transporting passengers without a licence", a worldwide first for the company, it said on Monday.

BlaBlaCar drivers threatened with fines in Spain
Photo: Richard Giles / Flickr

The Madrid regional government claims that the two drivers overcharged ride sharers by asking for more than just a proportional share of petrol and road tolls, regional transport director Pablo Rodriguez Sardinero told AFP.   

BlaBlaCar said the drivers deny the charges, which could lead to hefty fines for the drivers and the company, which is present in 22 countries and boasts 35 million members.

The drivers risk fines of €4,001 ($4,400) each, and the company €8,803 for facilitating “an unlicenced transport service”.

The Madrid region says that insurance and financing costs for the purchase of vehicles cannot be charged to carpool users.   

French-founded BlaBlaCar said the drivers had respected “the platform's norms and therefore the current legislation”.   

The platform is popular in Spain where it started out in 2010 at the height of the financial crisis. It has around three million users there.   

A company source told AFP that BlaBlaCar employs staff specifically to ensure that users cannot make a profit beyond sharing the cost of a ride.

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Uber poised for Swiss expansion

Long plagued by legal issues and driver shortages, ride sharing service Uber is set to expand into more of Switzerland’s French-speaking towns.

Uber poised for Swiss expansion
Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

Long plagued by legal issues and driver shortages, ride sharing service Uber is set to expand into more of Switzerland’s French-speaking towns. 

The ride sharing service announced on Wednesday it would expand into the predominantly French-speaking towns of Fribourg, Sion and Yverdon. 

A spokesman for the American service told Swiss media outlet Watson the expansion was fuelled by demand. 

In Sion and Fribourg, while rides can be booked via the app, they will be carried out by taxis in order to comply with local regulations. 

“Our launch will enable taxi drivers to increase the use of their vehicles, win new customers and thus generate more sales thanks to our technology,” said Jean-Pascal Aribot, Director of Uber Switzerland. 

Uber currently operates freely in the German-speaking cities of Basel, Bern, Lucerne, Winterthur and Zurich. 

Legal issues and driver shortages

Uber’s expansion in Switzerland has been slower than in some neighbouring countries.  

Drivers have complained that Switzerland’s high cost of living makes it more difficult to make ends meet, while the company has also been plagued by frequent legal issues. 

The service is currently banned in Geneva due to concerns about payments for drivers, although the ban has been suspended regarding an appeal. 

Geneva classifies Uber as an employer, meaning that drivers should be entitled to benefits including paid holidays, sick leave and pensions. 

The company disputes this and says its drivers are independent contractors. 

In February, voters in Zurich approved a plan to place more restrictions on Uber in the canton. 

The new restrictions include that drivers need to register with cantonal authorities and place obvious signs on their vehicles to distinguish them from regular cars.

The vote, which took place only in the canton of Zurich as part of the February 9 round of referendums, sought to bring regulation for Uber and other ride-sharing services in line with taxis and other limousine services. 

A total of 51.6 percent of voters approved the initiative, while 42.4 percent were opposed. 

The initiative also ‘cantonalised’ taxi regulation, meaning that the municipalities of Zurich will no longer set conditions for taxi companies. Unlike previously, taxis are now allowed to use ranks anywhere in the canton.