Polish taxi drivers protest against Uber

Hundreds of taxis blocked central Warsaw to protest against competitors (AFP Photo/Janek Skarzynski) (AFP/File)

Warsaw (AFP) - Hundreds of Polish taxi drivers on Thursday caused tailbacks in the capital Warsaw by driving at a snail's pace to protest against competitors including the controversial ride-sharing app Uber.

Traditional cab operators have already staged protests in Brussels, Lisbon and Paris this year, the latter turning violent.

They argue that the app represents unfair competition because Uber drivers can flout the rules and restrictions that regulate professionals.

Sporting little red-and-white national flags, the taxis crawled through Warsaw at 30 kilometres (20 miles) an hour before converging on parliament. Organisers said 2,000 drivers took part.

"We're protesting against unfair competition from companies that don't pay taxes and take away our livelihood," a driver for the ELE taxi service told AFP.

Uber has become Silicon Valley's biggest venture-funded startup, with a valuation of some $50 billion (45 billion euros), having expanded its ride-sharing services to dozens of countries.

It has been operating in Warsaw since last year and is also present in the northern city of Gdansk and the southern city of Krakow.

But it is just one of many such companies on the market, prompting Poland's cab drivers to call for legislation aimed at the firms.

Parliament has a bill in the works that would require transport companies to establish their tax residence in Poland -- currently not the case for Uber -- and employ licensed taxi drivers.

A Spanish court has meanwhile asked the European Union's top court to decide whether Uber is a technology application or an old-fashioned transport company that would require far stricter regulation.

Anticipating such court decisions, Uber has launched an upmarket alternative service called Uber X in several European markets which requires professionally licensed drivers.