Illegal to take photos in Belgian cabs?
October 24, 2014 2:19 AM   Subscribe

Belgian natives and residents: Last Sunday I had to take a cab from Brussels Midi to where I was staying. During the course of the ride the driver proceeded to : text, talk on his phone, smoke and blast shitty French rap.

When I took a picture of the cab # he said it was illegal and called a # he claimed was the police. When I deleted the picture and showed him that I had ( I do remember the cab #) he tried to take the phone from me. He did take me to my proper destination and thought he could pat me when I got out of the car.

I was staying at a serviced apartment with no onsite receptionist and have been leery of reporting it until I moved to another place.

He claimed the cab was private space, is it true I can't take pictures in one here? Googling taxi laws in Belgium turns up nothing even with auto translate. I DID find that he wasn't supposed to smoke or use his phone while driving.
posted by brujita to Law & Government (11 answers total)
I was told in the Netherlands at the national museum that it was illegal to take a picture of *anyone* without permission.
posted by mecran01 at 2:47 AM on October 24, 2014

Dutch laws won't be applicable in Belgian taxis, but it's true that both countries have laws regarding the rights of individuals to object to others taking pictures of them (though not in all circumstances).

However, you were not taking a picture of a person, so those laws are not what you are looking for anyway.

I am not a lawyer, but I suspect that taxis are seen as 'private property', and taking pictures there without the owner's consent is forbidden.
posted by Ms. Next at 3:25 AM on October 24, 2014

I think he was trying to not get in trouble because he thought you would report his behavior. So he took advantage of you being a foreigner to flip the situation. Making up laws about taking photos and "calling the police" was all an act to get you to delete the photo. Sounds like an awful cab ride.
posted by pravit at 3:53 AM on October 24, 2014 [12 favorites]

Why not ask a Belgian police officer? They're hardly going to arrest you on the spot (or you could say "I *considered* taking a picture of hs behavior..."). That way you'd get a field response that would give you confidence in the answer, if not the actual letter of the law. You can also ask the officer what you should do in the event that you are subject to driving you consider unsafe in a cab.

Says someone who has lived in Belgium and talked to the police.
posted by cocoagirl at 4:09 AM on October 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is it possible he was a limo service/minicab driver who shouldn't have picked you up in the first place? Either way, it sounds like a horrid interaction, but calling the "police" was almost certainly aggressive bluster, and patting you as you left was trying to make sure you didn't report the ride. In my opinion, it's far more likely that someone that aggressive about being reported was worried about being reported for plying for trade than being reported for the kinds of things taxi regulators don't actually care about. Brussels looks as though it's pretty far up the ranks of corrupt/captured taxi administrations.
posted by ambrosen at 4:11 AM on October 24, 2014

In my experience, if someone threatens to call the police on you, you should let them. This is a tactic used by jerks to scare you into not standing up for yourself.

I know nothing about Belgian laws, but I feel pretty comfortable, given the information we have here and having dealt with a number of extremely unreasonable people in life, saying that you weren't doing anything wrong, he was, and he was bluffing and bullying you into leaving.
posted by phunniemee at 4:20 AM on October 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: There was a taxi # posted in the cab,a taxi sign on the roof of his car and I got in at the taxi stand . I did find the site to report bad drivers, but I wanted to know who is more at fault in Belgium. If he actually WAS calling the cops , it's been recorded, yes?

I'm in the process of switching to a hotel with a receptionist; there are other reasons why I don't feel safe where I've been staying.
posted by brujita at 4:53 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, and he didn't turn on (or have?) a meter.
posted by brujita at 4:53 AM on October 24, 2014

From your description it sounds like you perhaps took the picture of the taxi driver's ID after you had become annoyed over his behaviour - and he noticed. I can say nothing of Belgian law - but any taxi driver who sees you doing this - is likely to conclude that bad things will happen to them and may react aggressively. Meanwhile they are holding you prisoner in the back of their vehicle in an unknown city- and you owe them money - not a strong situation to be in.

So, I'd advice anybody who finds themselves in this situation to simply pretend to be writing a text on the phone - and key in the details about the driver to the text. Only once you have got out of the cab could you consider taking a photo of it to capture the license plate.
posted by rongorongo at 5:00 AM on October 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Sounds like an awful experience, I'm sorry you had to go through that. I'm not personally very familiar with Belgian regulations, but Brussel Mobiliteit appears to be the traffic and infrastructure authority for the Brussels Capital Region, I'd try filing a complaint with them. The Dutch-language (taxi-specific) form is here; I'm surprised they don't offer an English version of the page but Google Translate seems to play reasonably well with it. So you could keep them side by side in browser tabs, fill out and submit the Dutch version and refer to the machine translation for which field is which. At any rate you can select English within the form at least, indicating they'll accept complaints written in English.

Assuming you get the same machine translation as I do:

• "Description of the facts" is where the substance of the complaint goes, I'd have said maybe "Summary of your complaint"

• "Number" right after "Street" is where a house number goes.

• "Number (plate)" will take, I assume, either the taxi number or the license plate number.

• Under "Ride", "H" is (approximate) time of departure and "Departure" is location of departure, i.e. pick-up. Just enter "Brussels South/Midi" I guess.

• For "Order Taxi" they want to know how the ride was arranged; the first two options should read "Hailed" (i.e. signalled or called from the street) and "From taxi stand".

Again, I have no direct experience with taxis in Belgium. However, from your description of events I'm inclined to believe it may have been an unlicensed cab, i.e. a hack. And also reiterating that I have no concrete knowledge of the relevant laws, I would be very surprised indeed to learn that you couldn't take pictures in/of cabs, or that taxi drivers can smoke in their vehicles. All of that sort of spells "hack" to me.

I wouldn't blame you if you don't have very high hopes about the complaints procedure. If it was indeed unlicensed they will probably not be able to help you in any concrete way. If it were me though I'd still report it: it will help government keep track of the problem, its size etc. Sorry I can't offer anything more directly helpful.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:39 AM on October 24, 2014

Response by poster: I think I'll call the US embassy and ask them.
posted by brujita at 10:48 AM on October 24, 2014

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