Car-sharing services firm Uber said on July 17 that it would appeal in court the fines imposed by the country’s competition watchdog, worth a total 200 000 leva.
Uber’s general manager for Bulgaria Dimitar Radukov told Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) that the Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) ruling, issued last week, was a “strange one”.
“They labelled as a de facto taxi company, which we are not. This is a first-instance decision that we will appeal at the Supreme Administrative Court and we are confident in the impartiality of the Bulgarian court and that this ruling by CPC will be overturned,” Radukov said.
He repeatedly dismissed comparisons between Uber’s car-sharing service and taxis, saying that it did not employ drivers, only provided a technological platform for individuals who wanted “to share their ride”. He said that the company’s platform introduced a lot of transparency in a sector that has been dogged by suspicions of tax avoidance in the past.
Radukov said that Uber had long-term plans for the Bulgarian market and would invest further to develop its service in the country.
CPC spokesperson Mario Gavrilov told BNR that it was Uber’s right to appeal the regulator’s decision, but re-iterated that it was CPC’s belief that certain characteristics of Uber’s service – the passenger setting the route, the driver carrying out the request, while the technological platform sets the price – made it “a taxi service par excellence”.
“There are other online platforms that employ similar technology to Uber, but with one important difference – they only hire licenced taxi drivers and apply the fees of the respective company,” he said.
By failing to meet the regulatory requirements set for other taxi companies, Uber was engaging in unfair competition, because it was saving money compared to other taxi companies, Gavrilov said.
Since the launch of its UberX ride-sharing service in Sofia in December 2014, offering lower fares than taxi companies, Uber has come under fire from both its competitors and state institutions, with some reports earlier this year suggesting that regulators could target Uber drivers for carrying out ” unregulated car transport services”.