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Uber Set to Expand Operations in Ireland

Uber is set to expand its operations in Ireland to serve “transport desert” areas in the South and West of the country.

The announcement of the pilot was made by Uber’s head of policy for EMEA Mark MacGann and was expected to be up and running by Christmas. However, as talks with city councils to determine final location are still ongoing, it is unlikely that the service will be fully functional in these locations before the new year.

Thus far, Uber is only in operation in Dublin, but it does not as yet use its ride-share product ‘UberPop’. UberPop allows ordinary drivers to ride-share for money, which has caused huge controversy throughout Europe as it threatens to undercut traditional taxi fares. However, in Ireland, ride-sharing for money is currently illegal. Uber only uses PSV-licensed drivers for its UberTaxi and UberBlack limo services. This means it is essentially just a taxi service so far, but according to MacGann, the company “will not be launching a product in Ireland called UberPop”.

However, at the end of last month Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe met with representatives from Uber to discuss a range of issues, one of which was the possibility of implementing their ride-sharing service in Ireland.

A spokesperson for the minister said that the minister and officials undertook to examine the issue further, bearing in mind the legislative and regulatory issues that may arise. He said: “In relation to UberPop, the minister indicated that such a service would not at present comply with our primary legislation, specifically the Taxi Regulation Act 2013, and that unlike some other countries, Ireland’s taxi and hackney market is very much an open market.”

Despite the legal status, there is no guarantee that Uber won’t try to move forward in its attempt to implement ride-sharing in Ireland. Its activity in Europe so far has shown a tendency to disregard state legislation that does not support its ambitions. In Paris, UberPop continued to operate for six months after it was banned by the French government, and in Denmark the company is currently under investigation for suspected illegal operation.

UberPop is banned in France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy and Belgium. In Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania UberPop was preemptively banned before it even had the chance to set up. Ireland’s Taxi Regulation Act 2013 makes it illegal for more than the price of fuel and toll to be charged for a ride-share – this would make the standard charge for the UberPop service illegal.

Regardless of whether Ireland decides to change legislation in order to accommodate Uber, the company is set to go ahead with its expansion plans. It is also currently beginning the second phase of its Centre of Excellence in Limerick, which will employ up to 400 people.

The potential for Uber to disrupt traditional taxi services in Ireland is ever-looming. In New York it has all but pushed the famous Yellow Cabs out of the market, and in London it is currently locked in a regulation row with the Black Cabs.

Feature image: Stock Catalog via Flickr


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