Bulgaria’s competition protection commission fines two Uber firms 200 000 leva

Bulgaria’s Competition Protection Commission (CPC) has imposed four fines totalling 200 000 leva (about 102 260 euro) on two companies offering Uber taxi and car-sharing services, commission spokesperson Mario Gavrilov said on July 6 2015.

In an interview with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television, Gavrilov said that the CPC held that the Uber service was identical to that of taxi services, but suppliers circumvented tax laws, did not pay licence fees, did not account for their revenue and so created an uncompetitive environment in the market.

“We imposed two fines on the two companies carrying out the Uber service in Bulgaria…on the one hand, we imposed a fine of 50 000 leva for violating provisions of the Competition Protection Act. They said that they were not performing such but after a thorough analysis, we found that they were doing just that, first providing transport for a fee and beyond that providing a journey on a route defined by the user,” Gavrilov said.

“And besides that, as we are empowered by law, there were two 50 000 leva fines because they refused to co-operate with us and we could not get the information that we requested from the companies,” he said.

The CPC said on April 15 that it had opened a formal investigation into the operations of taxi and car-sharing services firm Uber in the country’s capital city Sofia, on suspicion that the company was using unfair trade practices.

CPC’s decision to start the investigation was taken at the regulator’s meeting on April 8, but the notice was posted on its website on April 15. It targets two Dutch-registered companies – Uber BV, which offers customers the Uber mobile app, and Rasier Operations BV, which selects drivers for the UberX car-sharing service.

Uber launched the service in Sofia in December 2014, offering lower fares, which drew strong objections from taxi drivers and registered taxi companies. Founded in San Francisco in 2009, Uber has expanded across the globe, but has proven controversial with city authorities and existing taxi-cab companies, which argue that Uber’s competitive pricing advantage comes from not being subject to existing regulations on the industry.

In Sofia, legitimate cabs carry the same base fare as Uber (0.70 leva), but charge 0.79 leva/km during the day and 0.9 leva at night, compared to Uber’s 0.40 leva/km fee. The UberX service connects any driver with an acceptable car (as opposed to Uber’s taxi services, where the company hires the driver) to prospective customers.

In February, media reports in Bulgaria claimed that a number of state institutions were preparing checks into Uber’s operations in the country. Mass circulation daily Trud quoted Tsvetlin Tsvetanov, head of the car administration agency of the transport ministry, saying that joint checks by the NRA, Interior Ministry and his agency would target all unregulated car transport services, which includes the one offered by Uber.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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