March 23, 2015 / 11:54 PM / 3 years ago

Taxi driver arrested after Uber drivers intimidated in Brussels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Brussels police on Monday arrested a taxi driver who confessed to taking part in several incidents of intimidation against drivers using the Uber ride-sharing app, in the latest controversy over the U.S. tech company in Europe.

Public prosecutors in the Belgian capital said the 35-year-old licensed cabbie, identified only as N.C., admitted to being among several colleagues who had ordered rides on the Uber app on Sunday evening and then intimidated drivers who arrived at the rendezvous. Police said four such cases have been reported, some involving the throwing of eggs or flour. An Uber driver’s smartphone was stolen in one case.

No one was hurt in the four incidents. But with tensions mounting between licensed taxi firms and users of the services of California-based Uber, Brussels police called a crisis meeting with cabbies’ representatives on Tuesday.

As in several other major European cities where Uber has launched its smartphone app, connecting willing drivers with passengers, regulated taxi operators in Brussels have been up in arms at what they see as unregulated, cut-price competition.

Hundreds jammed streets three weeks ago to protest a city move to consider legalising online ride-sharing services, under certain conditions, from next year - shifting from the current municipal insistence that such operations breach its rules.

Constantin Tsatsakis of the Belgian Taxi Federation condemned acts of vandalism committed by a minority, public broadcaster RTBF reported. But he said his colleagues were angry that, despite legal action by the state against Uber, police were failing to check and prosecute drivers using the app.

In the capital of the European Union, where regulators are balancing concerns for the EU’s labor and consumer protections with promoting a digital revolution in the hope of reviving economic growth, the battle over Uber and other services is being watched with interest by many technology companies.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Richard Chang

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