Everyone’s favourite ride-sharing taxi service Uber was on the recieving end of a police clampdown in Cape Town over the weekend that resulted in 34 Uber vehicles being taken off the road and impounded. The City Of CT says that the Uber drivers didn’t have the proper permits to operate in the Western Cape and those who had their vehicles impounded will have to pay a R1 500 fine and then cough up R7 500 as a vehicle release fee.
That’s a pretty steep fine considering that Uber doesn’t actually employ the drivers or car owners. Uber merely takes a share of the fares.
I have used Uber several times via mates and the service has always been great. And i’ve never signed up myself or promoted them in any way, but am wondering if the rapid growth is starting to take enough business from metered taxis to the point where the City of Cape Town is acting now to prevent a taxi war further down the line. Mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith has already mentioned that the clampdown on Uber taxis was to contain a possible volatile situation between metered taxis and Uber drivers.
According to Uber general manager Alon Lits the problem is that they’vebeen in talks with the City of Cape Town for months over what licence and permits are required.
“The regulators in Joburg feel Uber fits in with chartered services operating licence category. So a completely different sub-category to what Cape Town feels and the requirements for a chartered services operating licence are a lot less onerous than the metered taxi requirements are,” Lits told Fin24.
Regarding the Cape Town metered taxi licence requirement, Lits told Fin24 that other taxi companies have greater resources when it comes to applying for these permits and that these companies apply on behalf of their employed drivers.
But because Uber operates on a decentralised model, the onus is more on the owners of the cars and the drivers to fulfill these requirements.
“Regulation is really lagging innovation in this case,” Lits told Fin24.
“And there’s a lot of ambiguity around what the right type of category of operating licence should be for Uber partners (in Cape Town). [Fin24]
So what happens if you are a passenger in an Uber vehicle and the cops pull you over and impound your car? Well apparently you are stranded and have to call another taxi service or get someone to come fetch you.
UPDATE: Uber responds on why they are still the safest way to get around Cape Town HERE.