Delhi Transport Department has brought online cab aggregators like Uber, Ola and TaxiForSure under Radio taxi license by amending its Radio taxi regulations (pdf) last week. The department said that these services will continue to remain banned until it complies with these new norms and opts for a radio taxi license.
Note that Delhi government had banned all unlicensed taxi services like Ola & TaxiForSure last month, after banning Uber for “misleading consumers” by plying taxis with All India permits which is not allowed while offering point-to-point travel services in the city. However, we are not quite sure how effective this ban has been, since several taxi services including Ola & TaxiForSure are still operating in New Delhi. Uber suspended its Delhi operations last month.
The department said that licenses will be provided for a period of five and a half years, which can be further renewed to five years. Companies can apply for these licenses along with a license fee of Rs 25,000 and provide a bank guarantee of Rs 15 lakh upon receiving the license.
Force-fitting cab aggregators with radio taxi players
Some of the regulations include:
– Maintaining a call center or operating through a call center or web portal. The taxis should have a mobile radio, web or mobile based two way communication system.
– Maintaining an initial fleet of 50 taxis either owned or through an agreement with individual taxi permit holders, which has to be eventually increased to 200 taxis. Ensuring availability of parking space for all these taxis.
– Mandatory installation of GPS and GPRS based tracking systems, printer and a display panel showing the path traversed and total distance covered. It should also be in constant contact with the licensees’ central control room. In case GPS is closed, the licensee has to record the reason along with the duration.
– Ensuring each taxi is fitted with digital fare meter on the front, has a valid fitness certificate and has a visible LCD display panel to indicate the vehicle is a radio taxi and whether it is available or not.
– Taxis should be fitted with a panic button in the radio taxi, whose signal is transmitted to the licensee’s control centre and then the nearest police station.
– Having a registered office in Delhi along with a website with details of its ownership, registered address, services offered, fare structure and others. A full list of guidelines here.
From the looks of it, the department has more or less retained the same radio taxi guidelines and trying to force fit these cab aggregators as radio taxi players, without understanding how these online cab aggregators work and goes against a key feature of the Internet: that of aggregation. Aggregators and marketplaces are mere intermediaries, making it easier for buyers and sellers to discover each other, facilitate a transaction, but hold no liability.
As we’ve said before, cab aggregators shouldn’t be governed by the same legislation that governs radio taxi services like Meru or Easy Cabs, because players like Uber are effectively a technology platform, wherein it allows drivers to list their cars and consumers to hire these taxis. It doesn’t own these taxis or employ drivers on its own. However, it’s probably too much to expect from a department which only “came to know what Uber is” last month.
An Uber spokesperson told Quartz India that they are not a radio taxi company and therefore these amendments “to the radio taxi scheme do not help us serve our riders and drivers in Delhi”. The spokersperson also added that “it does not accurately reflect the primary role that the Information Act 2000 plays in regulating intermediaries like Uber” (Also read: On the responsibility, accountability and liability of platforms, marketplaces and aggregators)
Uber rolls out additional safety measures in India
Meanwhile, Uber has also rolled out additional safety measures & precautions. These include:
– Police Verification: Re-verifying all Uber Delhi driver have an authentic and valid police verification.
– Document Verification: A local team of specially-trained safety experts will detect fraud, verify and authenticate driver & vehicle documents and also test the validity of its screening.
– Background Checks: Uber will be engaging local and global experts to evaluate an effective background screening solution across India, above and beyond the required government verification. Pilots of this solutions is already running in select cities including Delhi.
– Incident Response Team: A local and dedicated customer support center that will specialise on resolving critical issues for Uber riders and its driver community in India.
– In-App Safety Features: An improved ShareMyETA button that allows passengers to send their complete trip details (including live GPS tracking, driver photo, name and vehicle license no.). Other safety feature is also apparently in the works.