Uber in double trouble with Ola and Karnataka High Court
The Karnataka High Court has adjourned the hearing of Uber’s plea for amending Karnataka On-demand Transportation Technology Aggregators Rule, 2016, for Monday July 4. Uber has asked for amendments in taxi signs, meter, and printer. The status quo will continue till then, Transport Department told YourStory.
Meanwhile, Uber's arch rival Ola is adding to the US-based giant's troubles in India. On Monday, Ola released to the Press, a statement they have submitted to the Karnataka High Court in response to the state’s submission that it will not permit any aggregator to ply private white number plate vehicles on their platforms.
While declaring itself as a law abiding company, Ola has also accused Uber of offering private vehicles, those with no valid contract carriage permit to ‘user-riders’, on its platform under the guise of carpooling.(Carpooling is not allowed for private vehicles.)
Ola’s statement says that Uber is using white number plates instead of yellow ones as mandated by the authorities. (White number plates are for private vehicles, and yellow for those with contract carriage permits.)
Ola had received license under the same rules a few days ago. Additional Commissioner of Transport, HG Kumar, told YourStory that Ola got license for 100 vehicles, which was inspected and found to have adhered to demand for taxi signs, panic button, digital meter, and printer. Despite the taxi signs, these vehicles will not be permitted to be hailed from the road side.
Uber’s plea for the license, however, was rejected by the Regional Transport Authority. Kumar says that out of their 30 cars submitted for verification, only a few have panic buttons. Uber’s panic buttons are not connected to their call centre or police control room, he added.
Bike taxi war is back
Contract carriage permit is compulsory for bike taxis to ply inside the city limits. (If it is to ply throughout Karnataka, it needs a State permit.) In March, both Ola and Uber launched bike taxis in Bengaluru, only to be seized for lack of permit.
However, in the statement, Ola has accused Uber of “running motorcycle-taxi operations, ‘uberMOTO’, on its platform where it was offering private motorcycles, that is, vehicles with white number plates” in Bengaluru for over three months. However, Kumar told YourStory that all bikes had been seized in the two weeks following its launch.
Ola says that Uber continues to offer such motorcycle taxis (with white number plates) in Gurgaon, Haryana, despite authorities issuing a public notice in this regard.
A law on bike taxis has been proposed to the Karnataka government, but these laws are not too stringent.
Despite the red tape and unfair fares, it is undeniable that the taxi aggregators have made things better for Bengaluru traffic. Kumar says that Bengaluru has seen a reduction of 5000 cars in registration in the last couple of years. The entry of these two services has substantially reduced the road congestion, as more people are choosing not to own a car but use the cheaper options, and not worry about parking spaces.
After more than a year of war with the government, things seem to be getting some clarity now. Karnataka High Court had told the transport department to not seize these vehicles till a judgment is passed, except in instances of surge pricing – which both Ola and Uber have claimed to have stopped.
The taxi war is turning uglier every day in India. In March, Uber sued Ola for $7.5 million, alleging that the latter was using fake accounts to book trips on Uber and then cancelling it, interrupting their business. It was only a matter of time that Uber hits back at their competitor's aggression. Retaliating to Ola’s allegations, Uber today said that Ola has “chosen the Hon’ble Court as an avenue to level false allegations while not taking a stand on whether it supports or objects to these regulations.”
In its petition, Ola said that Uber’s petition “has been filed in an attempt to bypass the laws of the land by foreign companies who run their operations in this country for profit without due regard for the applicable laws.” Not taking this comment lightly, Bhavik Rathod, General Manager, Uber Bengaluru, said in a blog post:
Uber has the deepest respect for the laws of India. What makes Uber ‘foreign’? The fact that we are established in San Francisco but have a hyperlocal team solving problems that are locally relevant. Or that, just like our competitors, we received most of our funding from ‘foreign’ investors.
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