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Helsinki Uber drivers now face criminal charges when caught

Police in Helsinki are criminally charging drivers caught working for the smartphone-based chauffeur service Uber. Previously, drivers found behind the wheel of an Uber only faced a misdemeanor fine.

Naisella on kädessään älypuhelin, jossa on UBERin sovellus.
Drivers of the chauffeur service Uber now face criminal charges and investigation if they are caught working in the city, according to Helsinki Police. Image: Yle

Drivers of the chauffeur service Uber now face the risk of criminal charges and the potential threat of fines equalling the money they earned working for the company, according to Helsinki Police.

Helsinki Police Chief Inspector Pekka Seppälä said the department discussed the matter with the prosecutor's office in order to implement the new measures.

"This is a question of a crime," Seppälä said. "If an investigation reveals that a driver has worked for Uber a long time, they could be forced to pay back their ill-gotten gains."

In other words, Uber drivers risk paying pack all of the money they made while driving for the illicit taxi service. A police investigation is currently underway into the case of one driver who reportedly earned thousands of euros per month.

Marginal phenomenon

Police are currently investigating some 50 Helsinki Uber drivers who were caught.

"There will be increasingly more cases, but it is still a pretty marginal phenomenon," Seppälä said, adding that fines will continue to be the chief penalty for the illegal chauffeurs.

According to the law, illicit drivers can also face penalties of up to six months in jail.

However, Seppälä said, Uber customers will not be criminally charged if police stop their car, but they would have to find another mode of transportation.

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