OSLO, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- A monitoring authority said Wednesday that Norway's taxi licence regulations breached the rules of the European Economic Area (EEA) and affected consumers by limiting the local taxi market, newspaper Aftenposten reported.
"The freedom of establishment is a fundamental freedom in the EEA. That is because allowing new entrants to the market is likely to benefit consumers through reduced fares and greater choice," said Sven Erik Svedman, president of the European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority (ESA).
The Brussels-based ESA monitors in compliance with the EEA Agreement in Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, enabling those states to participate in the internal market of the European Union (EU).
The ESA said it did not agree with the Norwegian government that this restriction was justified by overriding reasons of public interest. On the contrary, creating disproportionately high barriers to enter the taxi market could lead to an inefficient use of resources and to increased prices for consumers, it said.
The monitoring authority received a complaint against Norway in 2014 concerning access to the taxi services market in Oslo. It issued a letter of formal notice to Norway on the matter in May 2016, and is now taking the next step in the infringement procedure.
The ESA said it may bring the matter before the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) court if Norway fails to comply within two months.
The Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications has insisted that the Norwegian rules are not in conflict with the EEA Agreement.
"We will evaluate ESA's decision for the time being, take time to analyse the premises of the decision and look at our options before we take a position on further action in the case," said Tom-Christer Nilsen, state secretary of the ministry.
But Nilsen said that "it is unrealistic to change the regulations within two months."
The Norwegian taxi association reacted strongly and accused ESA of requiring a "dismantling of Norwegian public transport."
The association also wondered "why the ESA requires changes now, when the law has been there since Norway joined the EEA in 1994," according to Aftenposten.
However, Abelia, a non-profit enterprise for the technology sector in Norway that represents online transportation network company Uber, agrees with the ESA assessments.
"For the sake of Norwegian consumers, we hope that the government will speed up the process, and that Norway will avoid being brought to court by the ESA," said Kjetil Thorvik Brown, Abelia's section manager for digital industries.
In December, the government proposed several changes to the taxi licence rules. It is currently unclear how ESA's conclusions will affect the work of the new regulations, Aftenposten wrote.