Uber to be fined for offering unlicensed services

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published
Uber to be fined for offering unlicensed services

Exposed to violent protests by taxi drivers around the world and drawing a backlash from Turkish taxi drivers, Uber is to be fined by the Turkish General Directorate of Security because of unlicensed services and alleged tax evasion practices

The General Directorate of Security has sent instructions to all province directorates regarding Uber, requesting that both drivers and passengers be fined for offering unlicensed taxi services.

According to the instructions, if an Uber taxi driver carrying passengers is identified not to be the owner of the vehicle, a penalty will be issued. A fine of TL 2,532 ($719) will be charged for the first such infringement and TL 4,220 for the second.

If, on the other hand, the driver carrying passengers is found to be the owner of the vehicle, he will be given a traffic ticket and the vehicle will be impounded for 60 days.

In addition, passengers will be imposed a fine of TL 281.

The order was issued on Dec. 12 and stipulates that vehicles not used by their owners should not be impounded, as per the Constitutional Court's decree no. 2014/52. Before Dec. 12, Uber vehicles found carrying passengers were impounded for 60 days regardless of whether they belonged to their drivers or not.

Security authorities said that vehicles operating under the Uber system do not have the authority to offer scheduled taxi services, noting that this is an act of unlicensed taxi services. They stated that the right to scheduled passenger transport within provincial boundaries belongs only to commercial taxis, minibuses with 'M' plates, public buses and municipal buses.

Istanbul Taxi Drivers Tradesman Chamber Chairman Yahya Uğur said that taxi drivers are troubled with this practice, adding, "Taxi drivers pay taxes for plates. Since the calculations of this practice are made by Dutch banks, no tax is paid."

For a few years now, Bitaksi has brought taxi drivers with customers through a mobile application, allowing customers to access the nearest taxi to them. Bitaksi works with formal yellow taxis alone. Like Uber, Olev and Yolo bring luxurious vehicles to customers through the mobile application. They started operations a few months ago, and the only difference between Olev and Yolo and the U.S.-based Uber is that they are completely domestic.

Last past week, traffic patrols impounded Uber's 'UberXL' vehicle and imposed a fine of $281 on passengers in the car and Uber paid the penalty.

Turkey: Uber takes advantages of legal loopholes

The Ridesharing service Uber, which has been facing protests from taxi drivers since its start seven years ago, incited the wrath of Turkish taxi operators after its foray into the Turkish market in 2014. Taxi drivers say the U.S.-based company harms business and is apparently illegal, but continues its operations thanks to legal loopholes.

Meanwhile, the head of BiTaksi, a Turkish app offering commercial and legal taxi services, says Uber dodges taxes by running its Turkish branch from abroad. Turkish taxi drivers say the com

pany takes advantage of the lack of inspections and legal loopholes to freely operate in the country, where its services are currently confined to Istanbul. Taxi drivers, especially those working in big cities like Istanbul, have long complained of "pirate taxis" that lack the official permits required for drivers. The police have considerably decreased the number of these taxis after frequent crackdowns resulting in substantial fines on drivers.

Previously speaking to the Anadolu Agency, Hüseyin Duman, the head of the United Taxi Drivers Association, said Uber is engaged in unfair competition both for drivers and passengers.

"It hurts the commercial interests of drivers. They do not have any permit or license plates exclusive for taxicabs," he says, referring to the plates for which drivers pay astronomical fees to obtain.

"So, they do not comply with working conditions set out in the regulations for taxi drivers and evade fees and taxes mandatory for regular taxi drivers. They arrange taxi fares without any regulation. This is similar to pirate taxis and causes us a loss of customers," he said.

Duman added that they have been in a legal struggle against Uber as of last year and highlights that some vehicles employed by Uber do not comply with standards for commercial vehicles.

French PM Cazeneuve: Uber is illegal

After the rise of the Uber protests in Paris, the French Interior Minister issued an order to stop Uber's services in 2015. French taxi drivers in the capital staged a fierce demonstration and burned Uber vehicles, claiming that they had lost 30-40 percent of their income due to Uber. French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve described Uber as illegal while he was the interior minister, but said that the company continued its activities because of difficulties in implementing the law. Uber drivers in Paris also protested the company's decision to cut the prices with another demonstration.

Britain: 3-hour demonstration in London

In February 2016, thousands of taxi drivers in London protested Uber and the London's transport authority Transport for London (TfL) on the grounds that they had not conducted enough inspections. The 3-hour demonstration brought London traffic almost to a standstill. London's trademark black taxi drivers claimed that Uber was not legitimate and that it had stolen their customers due to the company's low prices.

USA: Uber drivers against Uber

At the beginning of 2016, this time in New York, unlike other cities, Uber drivers protested against the decline in prices, and about 10,000 Uber drivers gathered in front of the company's New York headquarters. During their protest, Uber drivers turned off their phones and did not take the wheel. But the price cut increased the number of Uber customers in New York.

Austria: Protest with 400 drivers in Vienna

In April 2016, 400 taxi drivers held a protest in Vienna, claiming that Uber was not legitimate. The taxi drivers, who gathered in front of the prime ministry building, urged the government to take measures against Uber. They claimed that Uber's drivers did not pay taxes and that this system inflicted a heavy blow on the taxi industry. Taxi drivers noted that the protests would continue until the Austrian state found a solution.

Making a statement regarding the issue, Uber General Headquarters announced that UberXL vehicles in Istanbul were granted with required documents from the Ministry of Transport and the Istanbul Municipality, stressing that they pay their taxes. The company said that they should not be subject to penalties imposed on the illegal transport elements, called pirates, since they had the required documentation (D2).

Uber also noted in their statement that interpretation of the law in different ways is blocking the path to innovative technologies.

The statement added New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles in the United States and the French capital Paris that are among the cities where Uber vehicles are most widely used. It also read that Uber works hand in hand with ministries and municipalities all around world to contribute to cities with its transportation technology.

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