Masked Men Ambushing Uber Driver Elevates Clash in Amsterdam

A clash between drivers for Uber Technologies Inc. and licensed taxis has escalated in the Netherlands in the past few weeks, as opponents of its ride-sharing service have resorted to vigilante opposition.

Taxis and private cars blocked an Uber car, one of the attacked drivers told radio broadcaster NPO Radio 1. He asked not to be named because he fears revenge. According to the driver, the people wore masks and he also felt brass knuckles in his neck. After the March 10 incident the driver quit working for Uber, and said he has sold his car.

The opponents are taking matters into their own hands after a Dutch court in December ruled the service is in violation of the law on taxis. The traffic and transport inspection has so far caught 22 drivers using the app and Uber was ordered to pay a maximum fine of 100,000 euros ($107,000) on March 6. Uber has appealed the ruling and is still operating its basic UberPop service while the case is pending.

While Uber’s global growth prospects helped it win a $40 billion valuation last year, Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick’s expansion plans have been threatened in Europe by obstacles ranging from slow adoption, protesting taxi drivers and outright bans. UberPop was prohibited in Germany Wednesday and police raided Uber’s offices in Paris on Tuesday.

Slashed Tires

Last year in Paris, cabbies broke windows and slashed tires of Uber cars. And in Milan, unknown Uber-haters on Feb. 10 hung a banner across a busy street calling the company’s country chief a “whore” and revealing her home address, where she was purported to be receiving clients.

Licensed drivers in Amsterdam are unapologetic in their opposition to the UberPop drivers.

“It’s breadline robbery, they’re stealing our work,” said Richard de Vries, who works for Taxi Direct in Amsterdam. Taxi drivers in the Netherlands are required to invest in equipment, licenses and monthly fees to their operators.

Amsterdam’s police department has received two complaints, spokesman Esther Izaks said by phone. One UberPop driver was blocked in after a car chase, she said. Neither case involved physical abuse.

“This is damaging the image of the taxi industry, not Uber,” Vincent Everts, a Dutch trend watcher and video blogger, said by phone. “Uber is the one currently winning,” he said, because the fine is a “super-low marketing expense.”

The threats haven’t led Uber to consider halting the ride-sharing service.

“It’s a dilemma, of course,” Niek van Leeuwen, Chief Executive Officer of Uber in the Netherlands, said by phone. “We want to secure the safety of our drivers, but on the other hand, it’s our opinion that innovation within personal transport never should succumb to violence.”

San Francisco-based Uber is working on a proposal to change the taxi law that dates back to 2011, he added.

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