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Why radio taxi guidelines are not applicable to Uber


In what appears to be a knee jerk reaction to the Uber’s safety concerns emerging in the recent case of alleged rape by a Uber driver in Delhi, the Delhi Government has banned the online cab booking service in the city, reports The Economic Times. Sathish Mathur, the special commissioner at Delhi Transport Department, told the publication that Uber’s services have been blacklisted, since it was “misleading consumers” by plying taxis with All India permits which is not allowed while offering point-to-point travel services in the city.

We’re not sure of how this could have been implemented, since Uber is not a radio taxi service, and merely a taxi aggregator with vendors listed on the service. Uber cars doesn’t sport any branding, unlike competitor Ola, and none of the drivers are Uber employees. For all you know, they could have prevented registered taxis from signing up as vendors on the app.

That being said, banning a service like Uber doesn’t actually solve the original problem of consumer safety. As Lok Sabha MP Baijayant Jay Panda mentioned, would the government also ban other forms of public transport like government buses, autorickshaws and trains?

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Why the radio taxi guidelines are not applicable to platforms like Uber & Ola

Mathur said that cabs plying customers point-to-point in Delhi, have to follow the Radio Taxi Scheme which mandates licensees to have a parking space for all the taxis and office space for radio communication and telephones. It will also be responsible for the driver quality & supervision, employee behaviour and police verification among others.

Mathur also mentioned that they will be issuing a public notice that Uber is not authorized to provide radio cab service in the capital and will be looking into other players like Ola and TaxiForSure as well. Interestingly, this move is remniscient of the various consumer advisories issued by consumer brands against e-commerce marketplaces like Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal earlier this year.

Similar to these online marketplaces, Uber is effectively just 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. Hence, it cannot be governed by the same legislation that governs radio taxi services like Meru. Also, the onus of having proper driver documentations and other prerequisites like having a parking space & office space should lie with the taxi owner or the taxi fleet rather than Uber.

What was Uber’s fault?

What Uber’s fault in the Delhi rape case was that it promised safety, in comparison with existing taxi services, and its vendors didn’t deliver. The company mentions that it only 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. However, it appears to have neglected basic processes like background driver checking and verifying the genuineness of the driver credentials & documents in a rush to capture the market amid immense competition.

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Uber also has a GPS trace and record of all trips that occur on the platform, however this is limited to Uber’s driver app which can switched off easily and there is no live GPS tracking system independent of the phone.

That being said, there is some confusion as to whether the driver had priors or not. DCP (north) Madhur Verma had earlier mentioned that the driver was a repeat offender and had faced rape charges in 2011, something which Uber didn’t check while hiring him. However, additional DCP (southeast) Delhi police had apparently issued a clean chit to the driver in May this year, as indicated by a Times Of India report.

Earlier in the day, Uber CEO had said that they will work with the government to establish clear background checks that is currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs. Uber could also probably extend its Safe Rides fee to the Indian market, wherein the company charges a nominal fee for added security processes, regular motor vehicle checks and driver safety education among others.

(updates: Headline changed)

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