September 3, 2015 / 11:05 AM / 4 years ago

Uber starts Brussels licensed service, vows to keep UberPOP

An Uber sign is seen in a car in New York June 30, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Chauffeur-hailing app Uber [UBER.UL] on Thursday started its licensed service UberX in Brussels, though it added it did not plan on suspending its controversial unlicensed service as it had done in Paris.

The new service will start with 20 drivers who have a commercial chauffeur licence and will be more expensive than UberPOP, which allows users to ride with private drivers.

As in many other countries, Uber’s entry into the Belgian market was greeted with protests from taxi companies which see the app as unfair competition. Taxi drivers plan another demonstration in the Belgian capital on Sept. 16.

The company has also faced court injunctions and cars have been seized by authorities.

In July, Uber suspended UberPOP in Paris after facing violent protests.

“It’s our ambition to continue with UberPOP,” Filip Nuytemans, head of Uber Belgium, told a news conference.

Uber says existing Belgian legislation will allow UberX to operate, but it will not be allowed to use taxi lanes. The Brussels ministry for transport had no immediate comment regarding Uber’s announcement.

The news conference to announce the new service was held in a venue in Brussels’ European district but the location was only communicated 45 minutes before the start to avoid protests outside.

“When there is a minority of taxi drivers that delivers ultimatums to the state, that attacks Uber drivers and pulls passengers from the cars, clearly there is an issue of security,” Mark MacGann, Uber’s head of public policy in Europe, said.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Susan Thomas

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