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Taxi Times International - June 2015 - English

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TAXI APPS TAXI APPS

TAXI APPS TAXI APPS UBERPOP FINES UP SHARPLY In the long-awaited evaluation of taxi regulation in the already liberalized taxi market in The Netherlands, minister Wilma Mansveld (Infrastructure and the Environment) is relaxing many administrative rules and making it easier for new providers to enter the market. Not so for UberPOP though, as this service remains illegal. Drivers face a fine of € 4.200 for the first offence and € 10.000 for the second infraction. Uber now pays € 50.000 for each new offence with a new maximum of one million euros. According to Mansveld “UberPOP remains illegal because this service does not meet all quality requirements and thus creates unfair competition and therefore distortion of the market.” Mansveld firmly sticks to rules protecting taxi users especially in the regular street-hailing taxi sector in the larger cities. Her explanation: “Rules are and will remain necessary for the time being for a safe, reliable and affordable taxi ride. Detours, refusing rides, unrealistically high fares and dangerous traffic situations and disturbances of public order are still happening.” At the same time Mansveld will be relaxing seven rules because in her opinion new entrants and innovative services in the taxi market increase the convenience of travelers. Taxi operators will no longer need to prove professional competence when applying for a business permit; drivers will no longer have to print and issue receipts automatically, but will only have to ask the passenger if he or she would like one; drivers no longer need to carry a paper copy of their licence (as there is a digital version) and the presence of a taximeter will no longer be required in taxis used for contract work or in cases where a fixed fare is arranged prior to the trip (most taxis in the country are already fitted with a fiscal taximeter which registers working and driving times, the BCT). In 2016 or 2017 the requirement for taxi drivers to have a Certificate of Good Conduct (criminal check) and to renew this »With the sharp increase in fines, the Dutch minister is clearly showing Uber her teeth« Mansveld delivers a proper taxi-evaluation and creates no exemption for UberPOP. every five years will disappear together with the elimination of this requirement for operators. In time it is likely that the operators’ licence will disappear completely and only taxi drivers will need a licence. Criminal checks will be done automatically by linking the databases of the Ministry of Justice with that of the Infrastructure Ministry. The minister wants to create space for experiments. The combination of public transport, bicycle and taxi can further improve the journey from door to door. For example in sparsely populated areas where the regular public transport has difficulty functioning properly. Mansveld wants to encourage local authorities and other parties to come up with new mobility solutions including taxi services. A further modernization of the taxi legislation will be the evaluation of the existing tariff structure and the digital taximeter (BCT) in 2015 and 2016. After this, the progress made and the usefulness and necessity of rules will be re-assessed. The question of whether there can be (even) more tariff flexibility for taxi operators will then be addressed. Even after adjusting the regulations that will be implemented this year, Uber- POP is still illegal. “An exception for UberPop could distort the level playing field and thus lead to unfair competition. That is undesirable,” said Mansveld, who takes a markedly different viewpoint from her Brussels colleague, Pascal Smet, who is aiming at legalizing the UberPOP-service. With the sharp increase in fines, the Dutch minister is clearly showing her teeth. National taxi association KNV Taxi – happy with the evaluation – saw most of its lobby activities rewarded. wf PHOTO: Ministry of I&M PHOTO: Fotolia, Taxi Deutschland SPECIAL OFFER WITH BOOMERANG EFFECT The “MyTaxi” app created a storm of protest with a global marketing activity – especially in its home market of Germany. It was in particular the taxi companies who took to the barricades. They spoke about cut-throat competition. Dieter Schlenker, CEO of Taxi Deutschland, an association of many taxi companies, called the discount a “Goliath-sized price battle at the expense of the smallest companies.” For two weeks in May MyTaxi reimbursed half of the price to all passengers ordering a trip via their app and paying using mobile payment systems. The driver or taxi company undertaking the trip was paid the valid price by the passenger. The purpose of this 50% discount was to “make an attractive offer to test out the popular ‘pay per app’ feature,” came the justification from MyTaxi press spokesman Stefan Keuchel when asked by TaxiTimes. Schlenker’s perspective is different - he talks about consumer deception: “The discount is simply subsidised by financially strong global companies. Companies like Daimler with its MyTaxi subsidiary and Uber offer discounts in the hope of getting Dieter Schlenker, Taxi Deutschland Chairman rid of compulsory fares. Once they have achieved this, we can expect extortionate prices at peak times.” President Michael Müller also fears the same; his BZP taxi association represents both taxi companies and the state associations, and numerous member companies also use the MyTaxi app. It is to these people that Müller directs his call: “I ask those business people who conduct or permit MyTaxi trips to think about it for a while. Do not expose yourselves to the prices being dictated by MyTaxi!” The President states on the BZP website that to date he has followed the app from a distance. He sees a positive aspect that this app “does not question the legal framework like Uber does but instead only arranges proper taxi trips.” But a new situation has now arisen because with the special offer in December the company started to “conduct agency competition by unfair and legally doubtful means”. The Stuttgart taxi company “TAZ” also sees it as legally doubtful: They had a court issue a temporary injunction because MyTaxi’s approach is anti-competitive and infringes the German Passenger Transport Act. MyTaxi had to stop its special offer in Stuttgart within a few days. “The German Passenger Transport Act clearly states that the stipulated taxi tariff ranges are binding at the upper and lower limits,” explained Axel Ulmer about the court decision. Ulmer acts as an advisor and started the legal steps jointly with TAZ and a lawyer. It remains to be seen whether MyTaxi objects to the decision. The special offer has now ended. Whether it will be repeated is a matter for star-gazers. jh »A Goliathsized price battle at the expense of the smallest companies« NEWSTICKER MYTAXI CHANGES TRIP ASSIGNMENT From July 1 the commission fee for all trips arranged via the MyTaxi app will be 7% of the fare. That means the company leaves the existing and highly disputed model of flexible commission setting. Since the start of 2014 the drivers or companies had to determine what percentage (between 3 and 15) would be the commission for the trip. The higher the commission rate, the more likely it was that they would receive a fare. “The trip is now assigned by who is close to the passenger - no longer by grade, willingness to pay or external advertising,” explains a company notification to the drivers it uses. 14 TAXI JUNE / 2015 15

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