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Uber gives up fight, quits Hungary

U.S.-based ride-sharing service Uber said today it is leaving the Hungarian market after months of demonstrations by taxi drivers led the Hungarian government to make tough new laws regulating drivers for hire. If the regulatory environment changes in the future, Uber said it would resume its service.

Uber said in an announcement today that the new law taking effect on July 24 makes it possible for “Uber drivers to lose their licences or the licence plates of their cars, despite the fact that they have all the necessary licences and pay the required taxes”.

Uber said it does not wish to expose drivers to these risks.

Uber had negotiated with the government in an effort to find legislation that would protect taxi drivers while letting the ride-sharing service operate, but the law finally passed seems to make it impossible for Uber to work in Hungary.

According to Uber, the new law is putting 1,200 people out of work, making it hard for them to take care of their families or to take advantage of modern technology.

Uber said it believes the Hungarian government’s decision opposes the European Commission’s policies as well as the attitudes of other European countries. Uber mentioned Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Spain and the United Kingdom as countries that “decided to aim to regulate sharing economy to be forerunners in the digital economy”.

Uber currently operates in 480 cities globally. Uber believes that the Hungarian law that blocks its operations is “unique in the world, and Budapest is this way becoming the only big city in the region that will not be offering the services of Uber”, the statement noted.

Uber had 160,000 users in Budapest, around 39-40% of Uber trips were ordered by foreigners, and most of their clients were between 20 and 35 years old, Zoltán Fekete, the operative director for Uberʼs business in Hungary said today, according to Hungarian news agency MTI. He added that if the regulatory environment changes in the future Uber would resume its service, MTI reported.

The Hungarian operations of Uber received greater attention from the Hungarian government after Hungarian taxi drivers conducted almost a dozen protests against Uber this year alone. The protesters said that Uber drivers do not follow the same regulations as taxi drivers, and they can offer lower fares by essentially operating unlawfully.

The Hungarian government, pressured by the taxi drivers, adopted changes that practically turned Uber cars into taxis.