After months of protests, Hungary has finally passed legislation that could block Uber's service in the nation of 10 million.
The new law essentially empowers the country's national communications authority to block internet access to "illegal dispatcher services," much like it blocked access to illegal gambling sites in Hungary, Reuters reported.
"The bill aims partly to block the internet access to illegal taxi or other similar dispatcher services, if the authorities' other preventive measures are ineffective," said Development Minister Miklos Sesztak in a statement.
A potential ban in Hungary marks yet another defeat for Uber's expansion plan in Europe. The company's ridesharing UberPOP service has already been marked illegal by courts in Germany, Italy and Spain. Its appeals are reportedly awaiting decision in Belgium and Netherlands.
Uber's trouble in Hungary began in January this year when local taxi drivers put on a protest after they were subjected to new regulations that set fixed tariffs for traditional taxi companies, which was higher than what Uber could charge. This didn't settle well with taxi drivers, and since then, there have been protests demanding the government to outlaw Uber.
In Hungary, taxi cabs run under a dispatcher permit, which lets a dispatcher service transfer cab requests to drivers depending on factors, including the size of insurance deposit and obligatory data recording, according to Reuters.
The new law arms the government agency to block internet-based connections to taxicab services that do not have the dispatcher license — something which Uber doesn't have. The company, however, says it's working on seeking one.
"Uber will request the dispatcher permit from the Hungarian authorities. Currently, we are preparing that administratively. This is also part of our regulatory compliance efforts," Uber's Hungarian operations director, Zoltan Fekete, said in a statement.
With the legislation going in effect within 31 days, Uber is now on the clock to obtain the dispatcher permit. If it fails to do so, it will first be liable to pay a fine and will then be subject to a year-long internet access ban, which could then be imposed again.
"Uber seeks dialogue with decision-makers in the hope that the current outdated regulations are replaced with a modern one tailored to new technology, centered around the interest of consumers," Fekete said, adding that Uber has 150,000 Hungarian users and 1,200 drivers.