The recent ban on app-based taxi service Uber in New Delhi and some other parts of India has brought the regulation of such services under the scanner. A passenger was allegedly raped by Uber cab driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav in December 2014 prompting the Delhi government to ban Uber and all other app-based cab services in the capital. While questions are being asked about the regulatory measures taken by the government and also the nature of the crackdown after the incident, it is important to note that taxi apps have faced a lot of criticism and also been banned in many parts of the world.
The following is a ride through places where taxi apps have had a bumpy run and even gone off the road.
China – In January this year, the Chinese transport ministry banned app-based taxi services from using unlicensed cars and drivers. This nationwide ban was directed at regulating the booming taxi app market. Banned apps include Uber and its Chinese competitors Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache. The cracking down by authorities has included detaining vehicles using these apps and running investigations into these services. The government news agency stated that to ensure passenger safety all vehicles used by the app companies should be owned by taxi or car-hire companies.
Germany – Last year, authorities in Berlin ruled against Uber on two occasions. The first time, the taxi app was seen to breach local laws and later, it was banned due to concerns about passenger safety. Uber was also temporarily banned by a Frankfurt court which found the app service in breach of Germany’s Passenger Transport Act. The ruling applied to all of Germany. Taxi co-operative Taxi Deutschland had brought the case to court.
France – Uber’s low-cost car-pooling service UberPOP was banned in France from January this year. This was part of a new law aimed at tightening regulations. France’s Interior Ministry stated that UberPOP users were not protected in the event of an accident. The service was illegal and put the consumer in danger. Conventional taxi drivers claimed Uber enjoyed an unfair edge as its drivers did not have to comply with regulations, insurance requirements and taxes.
Belgium – In April 2014, Uber was banned in Brussels. Its services were found to be in violation of taxi regulations in the city. Uber’s service enabled people to use their personal vehicles to give rides to commuters who probably would have used a taxi. The taxi app has continued operating in the city despite the risk of hefty fines. The mobility minister of Brussels is reportedly planning to file a criminal complaint against Uber.
Spain – Following a complaint by the Madrid Taxi Association, a judge ruled that Uber should stop operations in Spain. The judge observed Uber drivers didn’t have official authorization and the taxi app was unfair competition to taxi drivers. Uber only ran its low-cost UberPOP service in Spain and has since suspended its operations.
Thailand – The Department of Land Transport in Thailand declared Uber’s use of unlicensed and uninsured taxi services to be illegal. Their credit card payments also were not reportedly complying with regulations.
The Netherlands – Uber was banned from taking bookings in the Netherlands in late 2014. The Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal in The Hague directed the taxi app to stop providing services through UberPOP as it violated a law that needed drivers to have a special licence.
USA – Taxi apps have run into rough weather in several parts of the US. From emergency bans and cease-and-desist orders to lawsuits and preliminary injunctions, app-based services Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar have faced regulatory opposition in many places in their home country. These places include Houston, Portland, New Orleans, Seattle, Miami, New York, Virginia, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington DC.
India – The rape of the New Delhi woman allegedly by the Uber cab driver saw the Delhi government banning all app-based cab services. Apart from Uber, over 20 cab services including TaxiForSure, Ola, Quick Cabs, Delhi Cab, Wyn and Cosy were asked to stop operations. The unfortunate Uber cab incident highlighted the lack of background checks on drivers by Uber and its reliance on checks being run by the government while issuing commercial licences.
Uber cabs were also banned in Hyderabad after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh advised all states to stop operations of web-based taxi services. The transport authority in Hyderabad stated Uber did not have a licence to operate and urged people against using Uber’s services. The state of Karnataka, following the advisory from the Centre, banned four services – Uber, TaxiForSure, Carzonrent, and Zoomcar. The transport department stated they did not have registration and operational licences in place.
Taxi apps have had a controversial run in many countries due to the technical platform they operate from, which makes them, unlike traditional taxi services. They claim to simply connect cab drivers with people who want to hire their services. Regular taxi companies and drivers complain of unfair practices since they are subject to more rigorous checks and licensing. Governmental bodies are concerned about the safety of the passengers using these apps. A taxi app like Uber, despite the raging protests and bans, is known to operate in 53 countries. Seen as a cutting-edge service or as a troublesome innovation that is tough to regulate, a taxi app can be said to be disruptive in more than one sense of the word.