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The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued an advisory (pdf) for the licensing, compliance and liability of on demand IT based transportation aggregators in India, which states that all on demand transportation technology aggregators or their subsidiaries in India must obtain a license under Section 93 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 from the state transport authority (STA) area where they’re operating.

In April, the Indian government ruled out banning cab-hailing apps like Uber and Ola, but imposed conditions to make their operations safer. The transport ministry was to issue an advisory, in the same month, to all state governments to regulate these services under the Motor Vehicles Act. According to the Ministry, the Government wanted to promote IT based taxi companies and not ban them.

Uber, Ola welcome new advisory
Uber said that it welcomes the opportunity to work with the state government to adopt reasonable regulatory provisions in the spirit of the central guidelines. Amit Jain, President, Uber India said, “The guidelines are a significant step in the right direction. They rightfully distinguish between taxi operators and technology platforms, and lay down sector specific regulations for our industry..”. While Ola said that it welcomes the advisory, it will continue to work with the government and ‘offers its complete support and commitment towards building mobility for a billion people.’

Let’s take a look at the advisory:

Valid registered vehicle, service info on website
In this week’s advisory, the ministry states its terms and conditions (T&C), which include that the aggregator must be a legally registered entity providing a digital intermediary or marketplace soliciting the connection of a passenger to a driver who has a valid registered vehicle. The aggregator must also publish its policy on taxi fare, taxi and driver registration, fare sharing with taxi owners and drivers, passenger safety, grievance redressal for passengers on its website.

24×7 call centre for customer service and grievance redressal
Aggregators are also required to have a 24×7 call centre and it is okay to brand the vehicles. They must also provide web or mobile app based customer service and grievance redressal centre with a phone and email ID. They must train drivers under with familiarisation with law, road safety, Motor Transport Workers Act, 1962 and gender sensitisation among others in a program.

Commercial insurance, first aid kit
All vehicles booked under aggregators must have a valid legal registration, commercial insurance covering 3rd party risks, permit to ply, comply with safety requirements (including location tracking systems), an accurate time and distance meter which should be interoperable between multiple platforms, for which the ministry will provide standards. All vehicles must also have safety equipment (including a first aid kit), emergency safety buttons, meet emission standards and a PUC certificate.

Drivers cannot accept persons who are street hailing
Drivers are allowed to login and log off at their discretion, be allowed to list on multiple platforms, not required to drive for a minimum number of hours, and not solicit or accept street hailing persons. They’re also required to be compliant when it comes to (as ensured by the licensee), to have a commercial driver’s license, a police verification report, among other documents.

Anybody convicted within the past 7 years of: driving under drug/alcohol influence, under  the Criminal Code of Procedure Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, including fraud, sexual offence, use of motor vehicle to commit a cognisable offence, property damage and/or acts of violence or acts of terror must not be permitted to use the platform.

Aggregator licenses to be valid for 3-5 years
Licensees will be issued with licenses, subject to satisfactory performance, if they comply with all the T&C from the state transport department. Licenses will be valid for 3-5 years, and the licensing authority will keep and refer to consumer complaints when a licensee is applying for license renewal.

Driver and car description; local police should be contactable
For passenger safety, the licensee must provide a picture of the driver, a description of the vehicle, including the number plate info. Passengers must also have the ability to share their location with minimum 2 persons, contact local police in case of an emergency, share vehicle location and driver data to the government when asked for it.

For licensee and drivers: Zero tolerance for discrimination
The licensee must verify the criminal background of every driver through police verification and other driver details like home address, PAN card, fitness certificate etc. It must also inform the relevant authority immediately in case of an accident or a criminal incident, have zero tolerance for discrimination or discriminatory conduct (like refusing service, using derogatory or harassing language at passenger, rating a passenger on the basis of sex, caste, race, creed, religion or nationality) of the driver while on the platform.

Driver to be suspended and in case of a complaint
On receiving a complaint from a passenger, the licensee must suspend a driver, during the period of its investigation. The driver cannot refuse service to individuals with disability, or drink alcohol and use drugs, following which if they do, the licensee must also suspend the driver and cut off their access to the platform until its investigation is on.

Receipt must be sent to passenger via email or hard copy
The state government will also be able to notify the maximum fares which can be charged according to the Motor Vehicle Act to provide a level playing field with taxi service providers. Passengers should get the distance and time travelled in an email receipt or hard copy. It must include the origin and destination, total amount paid and to whom. They should also be able to submit grievances through web, mobile app or customer service number.

The authority can suspend or cancel aggregator licenses in case the licensee fails to comply with T&C and has not remedied a situation within 60 days of receiving a written non-compliance notice. It will allow licensees to apply for a new license 6 months from the date of license cancellation, as deemed fit by the state government.