A group of drivers working for the ride-hailing app Uber parked their cars at Yenikapı Square in Istanbul late Monday to protest what they claimed to be a license cancellation by the city's municipality.
However, this rare protest quickly dispersed when the traffic police, which regularly fines Uber drivers, arrived at the scene.
The international ride-hailing app that drew the ire across the world has been criticized often. Uber was subject to protests by taxi drivers in many countries including Turkey for illegally working and hurting the competition.
Turkish Uber drivers claim that the municipality canceled the D2, a document required for the commercial transportation of passengers in the country. On the other hand, licensed taxi drivers say the company takes advantage of the lack of inspections and legal loopholes to freely operate in the country where its services are confined to Istanbul currently. The same taxi drivers, especially those working in big cities like Istanbul, have long complained of "pirate taxis" that lack official permits required for drivers.
Police have considerably decreased the number of unlicensed taxis in operation with frequent crackdowns that end up with fines issued to the drivers. Still, Uber enjoys virtual immunity due to a lack of laws banning its online services in its entirety. Authorities recently stepped up operations against Uber's drivers and its passengers by issuing fines to both. The company itself dodges fines as it only acts as an intermediary between drivers and passengers.
Uber made its foray to the Turkish market in 2014 and currently faces a lawsuit by taxi drivers in Istanbul who are hopeful that a landmark verdict by the European Court of Justice last month that ruled Uber was a transport company, not a digital platform, will help their fight against the company.
Yahya Uğur, the head of the United Taxi Drivers Association in Istanbul, said in a written statement that the protest in Yenikapı was actually a demonstration of the company's failure. "Uber drivers have been victims of the company. Uber attempted to get a slice of the revenues of legal taxi drivers unlawfully and without paying any taxes. Now, they have no chance to work as legal taxis," Uğur said, adding that the company was selling its shares in Turkey due to diminishing business.
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