US-founded Uber claims its low-cost offshoot is a car-sharing service, allowing it to accept drivers without taxi licences. But courts have taken a different view and have convicted almost 30 drivers of operating an illegal taxi service.
“It feels really sad that individuals have been caught in the middle of this. Uber has tried to support them as best we can,” Uber's Sweden manager Alok Alström told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper on Wednesday, after confirming that the service would be scrapped.
According to Uber's own figures quoted by DN, almost 100,000 passengers have used its low-cost service in the past three months and 5,000 drivers have at some point driven for UberPOP. Around 63 percent of all “active” drivers drive less than ten hours a week.
Uber said in on its website that the service would remain active until May 18th, criticizing current legislation in Sweden which the courts ruled some of its drivers had fallen foul of.
“Our pilot service has successfully tested carpooling in Sweden, but clearer regulation is needed before it can be taken further. The government's decision to defer an inquiry of a proposal to regulate car-sharing means more uncertainty and pressure on those who use our service,” said Alström in the statement.
“That said, there is not just substantial demand for car-sharing in Sweden, but a real need for it, and that's why we are keen to be able to relaunch it as soon as possible.”
Already forced to ditch the service in several European countries, including France and Germany, UberPOP has been in hot water since it launched in Sweden in 2014. A study last year by Swedish Radio suggested that three out of ten of its drivers had not been paying taxes.
It has been particularly unpopular among licensed taxi drivers, sparking several violent protests in France. And the Swedish Taxi Association (Taxiförbundet) on Wednesday welcomed the decision to scrap UberPOP in the Nordic nation.
“We think the decision is natural considering the court rulings and unresolved tax issues,” its head director Claudio Skubla said in a statement.