Within hours of launching its Danish operations, the American carpooling company Uber was reported to the police by the transport agency Trafikstyrelsen, and since then dozens of its drivers have been charged with operating illegal taxis. But Avisen.dk now reports that the company received help in entering the Danish market from publicly-funded organisations.
Uber has received consultancy services from Invest in Denmark, which is part of the Foreign Ministry, and Copenhagen Capacity, which receives public funds from the Capital Region and Region Zealand.
The specific assistance has included talks about recruiting employees, facilitating contact with Denmark’s Technical University, and helping the company find office space in Østerbro.
Claus Lønberg, the head of Copenhagen Capacity, emphasised that this type of assistance is available to all international companies coming to Denmark.
“We met Uber for the first time in 2014 and have assisted them in clarifying the different possibilities for establishing themselves in Denmark. It’s a type of service we offer all foreign companies,” he said.
“We are completely non-political in our approach to who we work with. We try to give everyone as good a basis as possible for deciding if they want to establish themselves in Denmark.”
The legal question
Dorte Bech Vizard, the head of Invest in Denmark, made a similar statement, but noted that the help would stop if Danish courts rule the company’s activities to be illegal.
“Invest in Denmark was founded to help attract foreign companies to Denmark. We provide advice on the same terms to all foreign companies that contact us with a serious wish to invest in Denmark” she explained.
“At the same time, it is clear that if the courts decide that a company’s activities cannot legally be carried out in Denmark, we will stop the advice.”
However, the revelations about Uber receiving taxpayer-funded help has angered the company’s opponents, including the taxi drivers’ union Taxiførere i Danmark.
“After two hours in Denmark Uber was reported to the police by Trafikstyrelsen. Every public enterprise that goes in and supports Uber needs to know that the highest authority in the transport sector believes that there’s something seriously wrong,”said Søren Nicolaisen, the head of the union.