Taxi sector concerned about future as Antwerp adapts deregulation

Summary

Taxis in Flanders are now free to set their own prices and will have to deal with competing taxi services, like Uber

‘Living in the past’

Antwerp city council has officially scrapped its taxi regulations in response to the Flemish government's taxi decree, which came into force this year. The change opens the way for alternative taxi services such as Uber and deregulates price controls so that taxi companies are free to charge whatever rates they want.

Deregulation also means that there is no longer a cap on the number of taxis operating in any given city. The government of Flanders announced the new taxi decree last year, saying that it would better serve a free market in the sector.

Koen Kennis (N-VA), Antwerp city councillor charged with mobility, agrees, saying that the decree allows more flexibility in the sector and encourages competitive rates, which is good for the customer.

The sector itself is concerned about a price war and labour violations. “We had hoped for a set minimum and maximum price at the very least, in order to prevent underpricing,” Koen Van Oorschot of Antwerp's taxi association told VRT. “If there are 10 taxis sitting at Central Station, every driver can just name a price. That’s inconceivable.”

All of the other local sectors are getting support right now, but with us it’s just the opposite

- Koen Van Oorschot

Deregulating taxi services also opens the door to international competition, such as Uber. “They profit off setting their prices so low that everyone else gets pushed out of the market,” said Van Oorschot. “And then they push the prices way up.”

Van Oorschot is also dismayed by the timing of the decision, during the coronavirus exit strategy. “We already have hardly any work right now. All of the other local sectors are getting support, but with us it’s just the opposite. We feel completely abandoned.”

Kennis told VRT that the sector is “living in the past” and needs to modernise but resists this at every turn. “This move will force the sector to be more digital-friendly and more flexible,” he said. “And everyone will still have to conform to labour laws.”