Uber warns EU regulations are holding back Europe’s tech startups

Billy Bambrough
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Former vice-president Neelie Kroes of the European Commission in charge of Digital Agenda unveiled the proposals for the digital single market earlier this year (Source: Getty)

Cab hailing app Uber has warned European Union (EU) regulation could mean that technology startups from Europe are unable to compete internationally.

Uber’s head of public policy in Europe Mark McGann slammed the EU digital single market and said: “I’m concerned about domestic companies in the UK and across Europe not being able to make it into the global market because of outdated and protectionist measures.

“I’m not so worried about the future companies like AirBnB and Uber,” McGann added.

Uber, along with room rental site AirBnB and online market retail Amazon, was being grilled by the House of Lords EU Internal Market Sub-Committee on regulation of digital platforms.

The EU digital single market, unveiled in May this year, is intended to undo the fragmentation of everything from e-commerce to copyright rules across the union.

Read more: Uber support grows ahead of Transport for London consultation deadline

There have recently been questions raised as to why there is no global tech giant equivalent to Google or Facebook in Europe, with high regulation and the continent’s cautious attitude to investment being highlighted as concerns.

In 2014 investment in startup companies in the US stood at $50bn. In Europe the total came in at $4bn.

Uber came under fire from members of the committee due to not offering employment to its drivers, which it claims are contractors.

Read more: Catastrophic EU VAT rules are destroying the digital sector

McGann dismissed claims drivers were effectively on zero hours contracts, saying Uber drivers have "total flexibility" over their working hours.

McGann argued that Uber is not unfair on the existing taxi businesses and compared it to "horse carriages considering motor carriages were unfair".

He said: "There will always be business models that come and are operating differently to incumbents in the market."

The committee will publish its conclusions in the Spring 2015, and will send its recommendations to the EU.

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