Published on 10 Dec 2014 Sections , , , , , , , ,

Uber ban spreads as backlash against taxi app grows

Three more countries have issued bans on the taxi booking app Uber over criticism of its vetting processes and business practices, leaving the American firm fighting a battle on many fronts.

In India, the government asked all states to ban Uber after one of its drivers was arrested over the rape of a passenger. And Uber was criticised over the checks it carries out when recruiting drivers after police said the man was a known criminal.

A Spanish judge banned the service, saying that it provided “unfair competition” and that its drivers “lack the administrative authorisation to carry out the job”. Uber, however, insisted that it would continue to operate in Spain and that it was considering its legal options.

Spain was joined by Thailand, which also banned the service, while the US city of Portland has sued Uber just after it launched there and Vietnam was reportedly considering its options and has asked for a meeting with the company’s executives. The attacks on Uber follow a string of bans and protests across the world.

Taxi drivers in many European cities, including London, Paris and Berlin, have demonstrated against Uber in the past, while it has also been embroiled in legal battles in Germany. The Netherlands also recently issued a ban.

Concerns

Uber says it operates in 52 countries around the world, including three in the UK, and that it intends to expand further. But the company is facing some of its stiffest opposition yet.

The driver held on suspicion of rape in India was out on bail for sexually assaulting a woman, Indian police said, raising fresh concern about the safety of using Uber.
Madhur Verma, a deputy commissioner with the Delhi police, said that Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32, had charges dating back more than a decade. Yadav’s offences include robbery, molestation and possessing an unlicensed firearm.

According to Reuters, Uber drivers have said they were only asked for their driving licenses, proof of address and car registration documents. One driver told the agency that he was never interviewed by Uber and the travel company where he works completed all the formalities on his behalf.

Those interviewed said Uber asked questions about criminal records and relied on government documents for verification, a sharp contrast from the three-step screening in the United States, where court records are checked going back seven years, Reuters reported.

Uber said it “exclusively partners with registered for-hire drivers who have undergone the commercial licensing process, hold government issued IDs, state-issued permits, and carry full commercial insurance”.

‘Justice’

Speaking after its driver’s arrest, Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick said the firm would do “everything to help bring this perpetrator to justice and to support the victim and her family in her recovery”.

He added: “we will work with the government to establish clear background checks currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs.”

While, in Thailand, the government said drivers picking up fare-paying passengers via Uber’s app were neither registered, nor insured to drive commercial vehicles and that Uber’s credit-card payment system did not comply with regulations.

“They have to stop operations immediately,” director-general of the department of land transport Thiraphong Rodprasert told reporters after meeting officials from Uber and rival cab-hailing apps GrabTaxi and EasyTaxi to discuss regulating Internet taxi services.

Fines

The meeting was arranged before a passenger in New Delhi reported she had been raped by a driver contracted to Uber. The incident brought taxi apps to the attention of Indian authorities, who on Tuesday banned all unregistered Internet taxi firms from operating in the capital.

In Thailand, Uber’s app acts as a matchmaker between owners of private vehicles and passengers, and has its own fare structure. GrabTaxi and EasyTaxi work with traditional taxi firms, using regular meters to calculate fares.

Effective immediately, drivers who use personal vehicles for commercial use could be fined 2,000 baht (£38), and the transport department is working to implement higher penalties, Thiraphong said.

The Uber representative who attended the meeting declined to comment.