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UberX: 2000 Drivers Without a Job after Court of Appeal Decision?

The courts of appeal are the main appellate courts in the judicial system of Belgium, which hear appeals against judgements of the tribunals of first instance, the enterprise tribunals and the presidents of those tribunals in their judicial area.

Since 26 November 2021, around 2000 drivers and many more passengers will no longer be able to use the app UberX. This was decided by the Brussels Court of Appeal. In the meantime, a temporary emergency ordinance has been approved in view of a later definitive Brussels taxi reform so that the Uber drivers, under strict conditions, can once again operate in the capital.

In its order to cease, the Commercial Court of Brussels imposes a ban on the application UberPop because Uber would work with private individuals who transport people for a fee. In doing so, Uber would be unfairly competing with taxi companies, as Uber drivers would not have to hold a taxi license. Per illegal ride via UberPop, the company would have to pay a fine of €10000. As a reaction, Uber launched UberX, an application whereby Uber only cooperates with drivers who possess a so-called VVB permit, a permit to rent out a vehicle with driver, like limousine drivers.

Also in Europe, the qualification of the platform Uber as a transport company was subject to discussion. As already described in our previous article: UBER – Transport company, the Court of Justice decided in 2017 that Uber’s service should be qualified as a transport service and not as an information society service.

This was prompted by a preliminary question in a dispute between Uber drivers and a professional association of taxi drivers in the city of Barcelona, on the grounds that Uber drivers were driving without a license, which would violate Spanish competition law. Uber drivers were therefore required to comply with Spanish taxi regulations to avoid committing an act of unfair competition.

Back at home, on January 16, 2019, the French-speaking Commercial Court of Brussels ruled that the ‘taxi company’ Uber complied with Brussels legislation on paid passenger transport. Uber would act as an intermediary without offering taxi services. Based on the ruling, Uber was allowed to continue offering its services in Brussels, much to the frustration of Febet, “Fédération Belge des Taxis”. The latter therefore filed an appeal against the judgment, since Uber drivers were said to be abusing their VVB licence.

It is against this appeal that the Court of Appeal has now decided to reverse the decision and extend the 2015 order to cease to the UberX application. As of November 26, 2021 around 6pm, Uber is no longer allowed to offer its services through UberX under penalty of fines. Only drivers with a taxi license would still be allowed to work via UberX.

In the meantime, on December 10, the Government of Brussels reached an agreement on a temporary solution with a view to a later, definitive Brussels taxi reform. The temporary arrangement will run until the ordinance on the reform of the taxi sector comes into force, which should establish a fully-fledged unique status for the profession. In this way, the Uber drivers will be able to get back on the road under strict conditions.

For example, they will only be allowed to drive on the basis of an exploitation license applied for by January 15, 2021 at the latest, and drivers will have to prove, among other things, that they offer their services for more than 20 hours a week on average. Also, the rides will have to be ordered in advance via a platform, physical soliciting of customers is prohibited. Finally, they will not be allowed to station themselves on public roads or at the reserved taxi stands.

“My government has worked very hard and we are pleased that today we can propose a temporary solution, which should make it possible for drivers affected by the Uber’s decision to return to work quickly. This proposal respects the court rulings of recent years on this electronic platform and at the same time paves the way for the future ordinance that will establish a fully-fledged unique status for the profession. I am very pleased about that,” said Minister President Rudi Vervoort.

But less than three weeks later, the Brussels government has opted for a different interpretation of the temporary emergency ordinance. Thus, drivers with a Walloon or Flemish Uber licence would no longer be allowed to work in the capital.

Minister-President Rudi Vervoort even threatens to withdraw the licence of Uber if it turns out that Uber deliberately allows Flemish and Walloon drivers to drive in Brussels. The Uber saga thus does not seem to have come to an end yet.

To be continued…

If you still have questions after reading this article, please do not hesitate to contact us by sending a mail to [email protected] or by calling: +32 (0) 3 216 70 70.

You Are Not Allowed to Speak Badly About Your Competitors

Businesses may want to know certain things about their competitors, such as their USP, price, quality, convenience, location, product range and customer service.

In a previous article you could already read that it is forbidden to advertise in a way that misleads or may mislead the consumer, unless it concerns exaggerated advertising that should not be taken literally. In this article, we look at another spectrum of prohibited advertising, namely denigrating comparative advertising and badgering.

The Court of Appeal of Antwerp recently had to decide whether an e-mail to the press from a company in which it links its competitor to ‘sjoemelsoftware’ (software used to influence test results) should be considered as advertising in accordance with Article I.8,13° of the Economic Code (hereafter: WER). Moreover, the Court also had to examine whether the company was thereby guilty of badgering (Article VI.104 WER) and denigrating comparative advertising (VI. 17, 5° WER).

Article I.8.13° WER

Article I.8.13° WER defines “advertising” as: “Any communication aimed directly or indirectly at promoting the sale of products, regardless of the place or means of communication used”. In other words, the concept of advertising is broadly defined.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the e-mail falls under the definition of advertising, as it has at least the indirect objective of promoting the sale of products. After all, by besmirching the reputation of a competitor, one’s own image is strengthened, which can promote the sale of products. This view is fully in line with the case law of the Court of Cassation in a case where the Court ruled that: “the placing of an identification plate on one tank which – from the nature of the case – can only be installed in one place can constitute advertising.”

Article VI. 104 WER

Article VI.104 WER prohibits any act contrary to fair market practices by which a company harms or is likely to harm the professional interests of one or more other companies.

According to the Court of Appeal, badgering consists of: “making an announcement containing a fact or an allegation, launching an attack or expressing a criticism which, in the mind of third parties, is likely to undermine the credibility or the reputation of an economic operator, of its products, its services or its activity.”

Dyson argued before the first judge that BSH had allegedly manipulated test results. The Court of Appeal confirmed the decision of the first court insofar Dyson wrongly linked BSH’s products to fraud scandals as she was not convicted for these allegations. The Court of Appeal accused Dyson of badgering. After all, it is not for Dyson to insinuate that BSH has infringed a statutory provision. With this decision, the Court of Appeal follows the established case law that such accusations, in the absence of a final conviction, must be qualified as badgering.

Article VI.17 WER

Article VI.17 of the WER stipulates that comparative advertising is permitted on condition that it:

  • “1° is not misleading;
  • 2° compares goods or services that meet the same needs or are intended for the same purpose;
  • 3° objectively compares one or more essential, relevant, verifiable and representative features of those goods and services, which may include price;
  • 4° does not cause the goods or services of the advertiser to be confused with those of a competitor;
  • 5° it does not damage the good name of or denigrate the brands, trade names, other distinguishing marks, goods, services, activities or circumstances of a competitor;
  • 6° for goods with an appellation of origin, relates in any case to goods with the same appellation;
  • 6 Zie arrest Hof van Beroep te Antwerpen 20 januari 2021, NjW 2021, afl. 450, 778.
  • 7 Zie arrest Hof van Beroep te Antwerpen 20 januari 2021, NjW 2021, afl. 450, 778.
  • 8 Voorz. Kh. Antwerpen 1 februari 2011, Jb. Markt. 2011, 527; Voorz. Kh. Antwerpen 4 oktober 2011, Jb.Markt. 2011, 559.
  • 7° does not take unfair advantage of the reputation of a trade mark, trade name or other distinguishing marks of a competitor or of the designation of origin of competing goods;
  • 8° does not present goods or services as imitations or replicas of goods or services with a protected trade mark or protected trade name.”

Any comparative advertising that does not comply with the abovementioned conditions is prohibited. Since Dyson identifies BSH’s products in the e-mail to the press, it can be considered as comparative advertising in accordance with Article I.8,14° WER.

As set out above, the Court of Appeal ruled that Dyson is guilty of badgering pursuant to Article VI.104 WER, thereby damaging the good name of its competitor (BSH) and committing an infringement of Article VI.17,5° WER.

Some examples of derogatory comparative advertising messages and/or badgering:

  • According to a Utrecht judge, the slogan “Now really without antics” of supermarket Steengoed as a variant of the slogan “No antics. That saves” of C1000 was unnecessarily disparaging.9
  • When Ryanair was introduced in Belgium in 2001, the low-cost airline immediately nauseated Sabena with the slogan: “Pissed off with
  • Sabena’s high fares?” above a picture of Manneken Pis, who made Sabena disappear for good with a jet.
  • Not much later, Sabena successor ‘SNBA’ was welcomed by Ryanair with a smiling Mona Lisa saying: “SN says it has the lowest fares in Europe? Don’t make me laugh”.

Conclusion

The concept of advertising has a broad meaning in Belgian law. Any communication that can directly or indirectly promote the sale of products will be considered as advertising. If you mention the products of a competitor, you will fall under ‘comparative advertising’ and, as a company, you must comply with the conditions of Article VI.17 WER.

For example, it is prohibited to damage the good name of a competitor and to belittle the goods and services of a competitor. You should therefore always ensure that when you engage in comparative advertising, you comply with the conditions of Article VI.17 of the WER.

If you still have questions after reading this article, please do not hesitate to contact Joost Peeters.

Online Gambling Law: Why Is Online Gambling Regulation Important?

There is no one gambling regulation for Europe; there are European countries with permitted online gambling, as for example Denmark, Malta, Estonia, Bulgaria. There are also countries, where gambling is permitted, by monopolised by state-owned companies, and it is a Finnish legal model.

There are also usually many differences in regulation of different online-casino plays – for example, the country may accept poker, roulette, slots, any types of betting, but be very strict regarding legislation of lotteries, so as Spain does.

All Spain lotteries are provided only by the local Spain operators. The online gambling law in the United Kingdom also has its distinctive features – under the Gambling Act of 2014, all operators providing gambling services to people from the United Kingdom must be licensed by the local Gambling Commission.

So, many countries all over the world do have their own licenses. You also may live in London, but play in an online casino, which is registered and licensed in another country. But why is it so important for a country to have its own gambling law?

Online Casino Licenses: An Overview

As fraudulent and criminal activities became more frequent as a large number of online gambling websites started to emerge, there was an urgent need for legal measures to be established. To obtain an online gambling license from a certain country, the online casino must pay a lot of money and fulfill many prescriptions.

The most popular European organisations, which give online casino licenses, are the Curacao Gaming Commission, the Government of Gibraltar, and the Lotteries and Gaming Authority in Malta. For example, an online gambling provider Playamo with its different online slots, has a licence of the Curacao Gaming commission. N.V., einem nach den.

How To Obtain An Online Gambling License From The Curacao Gaming Commission And The Government Of Gibraltar?

To understand the process of obtaining a license better, let’s take a look at the concrete procedure. For example, you want to establish an online casino and obtain a gambling license from Curacao. To do it, you will first need to establish a local limited liability company according to all the local legal measures. So, your company must be registered in Curacao and in the local chamber of commerce.

To register your online casino in the chamber of commerce you will need to provide domain ownership, provide a technical audit of each gaming system including software, so as to think about certification of your software. And the whole procedure will approximately last 3 months and cost you more than 14000 Euro. Anyway, the costs may vary depending on the type of gambling, your software, etc.

If you would like to obtain a license from Gibraltar, then you will also need to think about registering your online casino in Gibraltar, providing business, and investment plans to the Government, inspecting your software, etc. You will also need to have open bank accounts in Gibraltar and pay more than 35000 Euros for obtaining a license.

Regulated Vs. Unregulated Online Gambling

But why is it so important to regulate online gambling? Unregulated online gambling leads to what no one wants: anyone can run an online casino without worrying about standards and rules or being licensed. Unlicensed casinos are prohibited to provide games, and it can even be very dangerous to play in them. So, we will recommend you decide on the casinos, which are officially licensed.

Now, when you know how to make your gaming more secure – if you want to try an online casino, this is the right time.

Understanding the Purpose of a Golden Visa

The Golden Visa system essentially offers 5 and 10 years long-term residency to people belonging to the following groups: investors, entrepreneurs, individuals with outstanding talents such as researchers, medical and scientific and knowledge professionals, and outstanding students.

It is not every day that you come across a visa that opens up the borders of an entire continent, but this is exactly what the Golden Visa does. It was introduced by the Portuguese government back in 2012 to attract wealthy investors from outside Europe and it has worked surprisingly well.

This blog post will help you understand more about how these visas work, so if you are thinking about applying for one then read on!

What Is A Golden Visa?

A Golden Visa is a visa that provides residency in exchange for investing at least $500,000 USD into the property in the country where it was issued. The amount varies by country and depends on how much money they want to attract from international investors.

For example, Hungary requires an investment of €250k or equivalent currency while Portugal only needs €50k euros or equivalent currency for a Mercan Golden Visa. In some countries, there are no set requirements for what you can invest but most require just one non-refundable purchase of real estate with either a value greater than €300,000 euros or above 500 square meters.

Some countries allow investments such as government bonds which have different rules about how long your investment must be held before getting citizenship; usually three to five years.

Benefits

The Golden Visa offers many benefits such as:

  • Citizenship within one year after obtaining residency status
  • Freedom from visa restrictions when traveling within Europe under Schengen Area membership
  • Access to international education programs offered by many European countries including kindergarten through university-level studies with fewer tuition fees charged for EU students enrolled in higher education institutions
  • The ability to live in a diverse society with different cultures and languages

The program is an excellent opportunity for people who want to invest in real estate, have access to European citizenship, or wish to study abroad without worrying about visa restrictions under EU membership.

Why People Want To Get One

There are many reasons why someone may want to get a Golden Visa, The two main ones for people in the United States for instance are that they have enough money saved up so that they can invest at least €500,000 into the property and live there on an annual basis, or they have a relative who lives in one of these countries.

The first reason is that if you haven’t lived in Europe before then it’s difficult to qualify for residency through any other means than getting married to a European citizen and even more difficult if your family doesn’t already live inside of EU borders.

The latter reason would be used by those who wish to take care of elderly relatives outside of their home country by hosting them over while also being able to travel back and forth.

How To Apply For One

Obtaining a golden visa is not as easy as it might seem. Countries are starting to adopt more stringent requirements; Portugal requires that the applicant has invested at least 500,000 Euros in Portugal or 250,000 Euros into an approved business project.

The country also now demands proof of health insurance coverage by applicants who do not already have residency status there.

These stricter regulations may be due to recent cases where fraudsters were uncovered using fake documents and/or contacts with Portugal government representatives in order to make such investments on behalf of others without their knowledge.

To get one you’ll need proof that your wealth is legitimate; documents such as bank statements, pension plans, shares certificates, deeds of property, etc., along with evidence that you have access to sufficient funds while living abroad, such as a monthly income statement from a non-working spouse.

The Types

In order to apply for a golden visa, it is important to be aware that there are many different types and each comes with its own requirements and benefits.

The Immigrant Investor Visa

Requires applicants to have either €500 000 into real estate in their new country or at least €250 000 invested locally (in government bonds, stocks, or shares). This visa is for those who want to improve their quality of life in return for an investment.

The Retirement Visa

Requires applicants to be at least 55 years old and have €400 000 invested into government bonds, or shares. They can also invest €350 000 into real estate anywhere on the Portuguese coast; this option comes with a requirement that they maintain ownership of the property during their stay (and it must remain free from any mortgages). This type of visa is good if you are looking towards retirement and wish to live close to the ocean.

The Business Investor Visa

Requires applicants to have either £200 000 into business in their new country OR £250 000 invested locally (in government bonds, stocks, or shares). This visa is for those who want to set up a business and live in Portugal.

The Ph.D. Student Visa

Requires applicants to be studying, researching, or teaching at an accredited Portuguese university. This type of visa will enable you to study without any tuition fees

The Innovator’s Visa

Has not yet been released but it is expected that the requirements will include either £200 000 into research projects or £250 000 invested locally (in government bonds, stocks, or shares).

The Entrepreneur Visa

This one is also coming soon! The entrepreneurial visa offers residence permits with minimum investments of €50k in new companies registered outside Portugal. Applicants must have control over all company decisions. The Portuguese government has been very generous in that it does not require applicants to leave Portugal for at least five years and, if they do decide to live elsewhere during this time period, they will still be able to maintain their visa status by providing proof of regular visits back home

The individual investor Visa

Requires applicants have €100k invested locally (in government bonds, stocks, or shares). This is the easiest option because there are no other conditions attached to it but you should note that with all types of visas there may be restrictions on employment opportunities depending on where your investment lies. For example, an immigrant investor cannot work as a doctor while applying for residency nor can he/she take up any jobs related to Portuguese immigration.

The Immigrant Investor Visa

Requires applicants to have either €500 000 into real estate in their new country or at least €250 000 invested locally (in government bonds, stocks, or shares). This visa is for those who want to improve their quality of life in return for investing in the local country’s economy.

A Golden Visa is an opportunity to live in another country without having to go through the same visa process as everyone else. Whether you’re looking for more exotic and exciting places to visit, or if you just don’t feel at home where you currently reside – there are many reasons why someone may desire this type of immigration status.

Hogan Lovells Announces Madrid Office Managing Partner

A partner in a law firm, accounting firm, consulting firm, or financial firm is a highly ranked position, traditionally indicating co-ownership of a partnership in which the partners were entitled to a share of the profits as “equity partners.”

Hogan Lovells announces today that José Luis Vázquez will become Madrid Office Managing Partner, effective 1 July.

José Luis will balance his new responsibilities with the leadership of the Banking & Finance practice in Madrid.

He takes over the role from Lucas Osorio, who will return full time to his practice. Lucas first took on the OMP role in 2014 and he has been instrumental in building up our Madrid office to our present position as a top 20 firm by turnover in Spain.

José María Balaña, Regional Managing Partner for the EMEA region, commented: “Spain is a critical part of our EMEA region, comprising 24 partners and more than 100 lawyers. I am delighted that José Luis Vázquez will become our next Madrid Office Managing Partner and will continue the growth and success of this office.”

José María Balaña Profile

José Luis is a partner in the Corporate & Finance practice group of Hogan Lovells’ Madrid office. He is well-established in the market and regularly advises clients in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Having participated in some of the most high-profile financial transactions in Spain, his practice focusses on structured finance, debt capital markets, energy, infrastructure, acquisition and real estate finance, insolvency, and debt restructurings.

Hogan Lovells Madrid Office

Comprising 24 partners and more than 100 lawyers, our Spanish offices had a record financial year in 2020 and saw a significant increase in activity in some of their most strategic areas, including Corporate & Finance. Our multilingual team regularly assists Spanish and international companies with high-profile cross-border transactions, including deals involving Latin America.

Our lawyers also have deep expertise in energy, infrastructure, real estate, media and technology, insurance, and life sciences.

We recently boosted our capabilities through the appointment of Gonzalo Ardila as head of the Litigation and Arbitration practice in Madrid, the promotion to partner of Inmaculada Lorenzo, and the recent hire of leading insurance practitioner Pablo Muelas García.

R&D Return On Pharma Investment Picks Up

Research and development (R&D) include activities that companies undertake to innovate and introduce new products and services. It is often the first stage in the development process. The goal is typically to take new products and services to market and add to the company’s bottom line.

In 2020, projected returns on investment in R&D for a combined cohort of 15 global pharmaceutical companies was 2.5 per cent, 0.9 percentage points higher than in 2019.

This is the first sign of a reversal in the declining trend seen over the past seven years, according to research by Deloitte’s Centre for Health Solutions.

The range in performance between the top performing and bottom performing companies has narrowed, however, with all but one company having an internal rate of return below the industry weighted average cost of capital.

In 2020, the cohort saw an increase in average forecast peak sales per pipeline asset to $421 million, from $357 million in 2019. However, the average cost to develop an asset increased once more to $2,442 million, up $51 million compared to 2019 and a $1,115 million increase since 2013.

The increase in costs per asset is due mainly to a fall in the overall number of assets in late stage pipelines which decreased from 213 in 2019 to 207 in 2020. Between 1 May 2019 and 30 April 2020, the cohort had a total of 53 assets approved, an increase from 39 in 2019.

Deloitte also commissioned analysis measuring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on clinical trials to investigate the likely impact on future year returns.

The analysis revealed that between March and November 2020, the pandemic affected an estimated 1,210 trials across the industry. The vast majority of these had delayed starts or completions; and eight per cent were terminated or withdrawn.

Colin Terry, Consulting Partner for European R&D at Deloitte, commented: “We are finally seeing seeds of change in the projected R&D productivity given recent progress of some novel trial designs and improvements in efficiency through the digitalisation of drug discovery and development.

However, adoption continues to be experimental and not at scale across the industry, although accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic across all stakeholders and regulators.

The ‘need for speed’ has become all-encompassing alongside the realisation that development cycle times need to be reduced and new ways of working embraced to finally see the industry break the trends of the last decade.”