COPENHAGEN Denmark's new liberal government could move to deregulate taxi laws, transport minister Ole Birk Olesen told Reuters, a move that would help Uber [UBER.UL] to challenge opposition from industry and union supporters in parliament.
Uber's European business, headquartered in Amsterdam, has run into legal hurdles and some of its drivers, who are not covered by strict licensing and safety rules, have been convicted of illegal taxi-driving.
Its business model is disrupting existing taxi businesses, prompting protests, bans and legal action around the world including in the United States and much of Europe.
"The government wishes to deregulate taxi law, so the industry becomes as liberal, practical and cheap as possible to an extent which a majority in parliament can get behind," Olesen, newly appointed to his post, told Reuters.
Denmark's prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen reshuffled his government this week, bringing in two parties to form a liberal trio, averting possible snap elections, as the Liberal Alliance party traded in tax cut demands for places in government.
Olesen, who said he had used Uber for personal transport a few times up until drivers were convicted of illegal taxi-driving, also said he would like to see people taxiing in private cars in their spare time to spur competition.
"That would undermine and devastate the entire industry and create working poor," Jan Villadsen, who heads the transport division in Denmark's biggest union, 3F, told Reuters.
"Even if the taxi industry was liberalized, there wouldn't be any room for Uber," Villadsen said and referred to recommendations on Wednesday in Sweden saying profit-making ride-sharing should be illegal.
This month a driver in Denmark was convicted and fined for lacking taxi permits at the second-highest tier court, upholding a verdict from a city court. The driver decided on Wednesday not to appeal to the Supreme Court, according to local media.
The new, tripartite government, however, still needs to convince the Danish People's Party (DF) to pass laws, but DF has previously expressed opposition towards Uber and its drivers for not complying with rules or paying their taxes.
If DF and Denmark's biggest party, The Social Democrats, team up in parliament, they will have a collective 85 votes, enough to vote down any suggestion from the government.
"We demand that people in the taxi business have an education, are insured and pay their taxes," a spokesman for the Social Democrats, Rasmus Prehn, told Reuters.
(Editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen/Ruth Pitchford)