Taxi network wants answers on Uber's legal status

Taxi network wants answers on Uber's legal status

The Bangkok Taxi Cooperative Network (BTCN) has blasted government agencies for failing to clarify the legal status of ride-sharing services such as Grab and Uber.

Representatives from the two services as well as public and private taxi services attended a seminar organised by the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) yesterday.

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The institute was earlier commissioned by the Department of Land Transport (DLT) to conduct studies on how the government sector should address ride-sharing applications and introduce rules regulating their services.

According to TDRI officials, the seminar was also conducted to gauge opinions of the stakeholders who were all present yesterday.

BTCN chief Vitoon Naewpanit, one of the panelists, said the government must address, “once and for all”, the issue of private cars with white licence plates being allowed to operate as public service vehicles, while cabbies must still register for yellow licence plates before they are allowed to ply the streets.

“If they [Uber and Grab] are registered and their fares properly regulated by the government, then the situation would be considered just,” he said. “These companies have operated without being regulated by transport authorities for over three years, and there has been no explanation why from the government.

“It is our fault, as taxis, for duly following government policies for all this time,” he added.

TDRI Transportation and Logistics Policy research director Sumet Ongkittikul, who presented the institute’s research findings yesterday, suggested the DLT establish clear laws for companies using ride-sharing apps, to ensure they are properly regulated.

“A 6-12-month transitional period for new regulations to settle in will be required,” Mr Sumet said.

“Ride-sharing apps are still relatively new to Thailand, meaning we do not have laws that support such businesses at present.

“The emergence of such businesses is a problem that several countries are currently facing,” he added.

He said, Grab and Uber arrived in Thailand in March and April 2014, respectively, adding that 49% of Grab’s shares are owned by non-Thais, while Uber reported 99.98% foreign ownership.

The DLT early last year branded businesses that use private cars to serve passengers as illegal, citing cars registered under GrabCar and Uber with white licence plates. The Transport Ministry later requested a 6-12-month halt to Uber operations, to allow agencies come up with a suitable solution on regulating such businesses.

Uber representatives last March denied the company had agreed to halt operations, saying it had only agreed to the government conducting research into its business, while it remained in operation.

Uber Thailand’s general manager Siripa Jungsawat said yesterday the firm was open to talks regarding additional taxes after future talks with transport agencies reach positive conclusions.

“Although we are open to other taxes, it would not be correct to impose vehicle taxes on Uber itself, since we do not own the vehicles,” she said.

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