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Court denies 77 Uber drivers leave to appeal convictions for illegal taxi ops

Nearly 80 drivers fined for illegally operating taxis are claiming that Finland's new taxi laws mean that their actions are no longer unlawful.

Taksin tilaus älypuhelimen sovelluksella
Image: Berislav Jurišić / Yle
Yle News

The Helsinki Appeal Court ruled on Tuesday that it will not grant 77 Uber drivers permission to appeal verdicts handed down by a lower court, which found them guilty of illegally operating taxis.

The drivers had been previously slapped with day fines for plying taxis for hire without the required taxi licenses. A district court had also ordered them to hand over the proceeds of the then-illegal activity to the state.

The drivers then applied to the higher court for permission to appeal their convictions and sentencing and also called on the appellate court to exercise moderation in terms of the earnings they would have to hand over to the state. Some complainants also called for their convictions to be overturned.

Before Tuesday's decision, the Helsinki Appeal Court had had in its docket appeals from 109 Uber drivers. They all came before the court last year, with several of them filed after taxi laws were liberalised last June.

Dozens of Uber driver cases in court

In arriving at its decision, the appeal court cited a precedent ruling handed down by the Supreme Court in 2017.

At the time the highest court ruled in a case involving an Uber driver who had been operating without a taxi license, sentencing the driver to a fine and also ordering him to hand over his commercial proceeds to the state.

Since then, the Supreme Court ruling has served as a legal precedent for similar cases.

Last December, the Supreme Court rejected applications filed by five Uber drivers in the capital area for leave to appeal sentencing. In Tuesday's ruling, the appeal court said that the case dealt with the same issues that it had been considering with respect to the 77 Uber drivers.

In December, the Uber drivers had called on the Supreme Court to overturn the fines imposed on them, arguing that a district court had sentenced them for illegal taxi operations after new taxi laws had already entered into force. However the illegal taxi activity had occurred before the new laws had taken effect.

The drivers sought permission from the Supreme Court to contest the district court's decision by way of a so-called preliminary ruling appeal.

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