Taxi firms file lawsuit over anti-app sackings

Two leading taxi companies may be forced to brace for a court case.

The Federal Competition Authority (BWB) announced today (Mon) it started checking complaints by two start-up companies against Viennese market leaders 40100 and 31300. The businesses’ drivers face the sack if they use a new kind of smartphone apps. The programmes – provided by Get A Taxi and My Taxi – enable customers to get in touch with taxi drivers directly instead of being forced to ring a call centre when trying to get a cab.

Vienna’s strongest taxi enterprises, 40100 and 31300, force drivers to sign contracts which feature clauses enabling to fire them if they “enable competition”. Die Presse reports today that Get A Taxi and My Taxi decided to lodge complaints against the market leaders. A spokesman for the BWB confirmed that the institution started investigating the issue – and made clear that cartel authorities could become active.

A cab driver dismissed by 40100 based on the controversial labour contract paragraph also plans legal action against the firm, according to the daily. Die Presse stresses that judges in Germany declared contract details similar to the disputed regulations of 40100 and 31300 as invalid two years ago. Around half of the Austrian capital’s 4,500 taxi drivers are currently cooperating with 40100 and 31300. “Everyone who enters the market gets pushed out again. No one has ever managed to beat us,” 40100 head Leopold Müllner is quoted as saying by Die Presse.

The reputation of Vienna’s cab drivers sustained a substantial blow last month when a German travel club ranked them in 18th among 22 investigated cities. Motorists’ association ADAC said that only a few of the tested Viennese taxi drivers spoke English. It also emphasised that many were unable to recommend a restaurant or speak about the city’s sights. “This is quite remarkable in a tourism hotspot like Vienna,” a spokeswoman for the travel information company said.

Taxi drivers in Slovenian capital Ljubljana were considered worst by ADAC in its taxi test 2011 which was topped by cab drivers in Barcelona, Spain. Taxi drivers in Munich, Germany, managed second place. Their colleagues in Cologne, Germany, were ranked third by ADAC.

Salzburg was the only other Austrian city investigated by ADAC. Its cab drivers reached eighth place. Everyone interested in working as a taxi driver in the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart must sit history lessons to be competent considering touristic attractions. A spokesman for the Association of Viennese Taxi Drivers argued that 300 drivers could be kept more easily “under control” than 4,500. The association revealed it would send out detectives more often to increase the pressure on taxi drivers to improve their overall service and aspects like friendliness and cleanliness.