Europe vs Uber
By Alberto Mingardi
Uber is having a hard time in Europe. The San Francisco company has started its operations in quite a few cities now. This fact has raised protest by taxi-drivers (as any other human being, they do not like new competitors). Their remonstrances are likely to find a friendly ear: very often local decision makers can easily find some local regulations that Uber violates just by the virtue of existing. The discipline of taxi and black cars is, after all, the fruit of many successful years of restricting access to this trade. To allow for MORE competition, norms should be changed.
In Brussels the App has been banned, and it may be in Berlin too, where, as the Associated Press reports, “the head of the Berlin Taxi Association convinced a local court that the company’s service breaks the law”. European Commissioner Neelie Kroes has lamented that the Brussels ban is “not about protecting or helping passengers – it’s about protecting a taxi cartel”. She does not seem to realize that the taxi cartel is a product of specific norms all over Europe, not the result of unfettered capitalism: to be serious on the matter, she should advocate these rules to be revised.
But let’s put politics aside. It’s noteworthy that, on the other hand, a new rather interesting App has just been put on the market, in Berlin:
The latest Berlin-based start-up app idea has taken the online dating principle to the sex industry. Peppr.it, launched on April 1, allows prostitutes to upload profiles of themselves that potential clients nearby can browse.
Clients can search for male or female “Pepprs,” and adjust their filters for special services and body type. They can then send an enquiry and make a date.
The prostitutes do not pay to put their profiles online, while clients pay the website a €5 or €10 booking fee.
The principle isn’t much different than Uber’s: the app connects supply and demand, even though – if I understand correctly – “Pepprs” do not intermediate the payment from the buyer to the seller.
Some may comment that it is a rather strange country, one in which the same technology could be legally applied to picking up prostitutes but not for black cars’ pick-ups. I’d say that it is quite understandable, that an industry less affected by government intervention is more welcoming to innovation.