by Graham Pierrepoint
Anyone who knows a thing or two about apps and cab hailing will likely already be acquainted with Uber, the US quick car-hire firm that allows users to request rides straight from their smartphones, even enabling them to rate drivers and to earn free trips by recommending friends. Over the past two to three years, Uber became something of a phenomenon – during a time where so many of our daily activities are being simplified through technology, the firm was clearly leading the race in terms of the taxi revolution. Since this time, however, other apps such as Lyft have arrived and have started to gather momentum. Uber, too, has been at the forefront of controversy in recent months – but this week, it appears an entire nation has forbidden it from being used.
A court in Rome, Italy, ruled that Uber offers what has been termed as unfair competition for other taxi drivers who are not operating via the app. The case came to light thanks to legal proceedings initiated by unions representing cab firms across the country, and as a result of the landmark ruling, Italy has effectively given the firm ten days from the date of the decision to pack up and ultimately leave the country altogether – marketing, promotion, operation – or face breaching Italian law.
The ruling is thought to be among the first of its kind, and it is at least a colossal blow to the firm who are said to be ‘shocked’ by the decision – with a spokesperson arguing that the app has been a source of work for ‘thousands of professional, licensed drivers’ to ‘provide reliable transportation at the push of a button’. No one can deny Uber’s ease of use – but for Italian cab drivers, at least, it appears that the competition crossed a line.
Uber had a barnstorming 2015 and 2016 after testing out flu shot delivery services among other trials, but faced a colossal backlash earlier this year after the firm opted to drop surge pricing around JFK Airport during protests against Donald Trump’s Presidency in the US. This event led to mass uptake of the hashtag #deleteuber, and even allegedly resulted in the firm having to up its efforts to handle an increase in account deletion requests. So far, therefore, it’s not been a good year for the app – will they see their fortunes turn around by the year’s end?