Oh boy, here we go again with the Uber banning/”make Uber illegal” drama!

About 2 years ago, transportation service Uber‘s UberBLACK, a premium product which features luxurious sedans for hire such as the Toyota Camry, Nissan Teana, and Honda Accord was launched in Malaysia. With a mobile app as its virtual connectivity platform, UBER connects drivers to riders in 160+ cities around the world.

Uber KL Team LtoR - Leon Foong (Head of Operations) Lakshmi Patmarajah (Head of Marketing and Partnerships) Low Jian Wei (Driver Operations Manager)

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In August 2014, the company launched a more affordable version of their service called uberX, which features cars such as the Perodua Myvi, Nissan Almera, and Toyota Vios. It instantly became a hit and was (and still is) a popular means of getting around in.

In the same month last year, following a week-long debate between Malaysia’s Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) and taxi drivers (who claimed that their business had been affected by the the availability of Uber), Uber Malaysia came under fire for its operations.

At that time, deputy president of the Gabungan Persatuan dan Syarikat-Syarikat Teksi Semenanjung Malaysia (Gabungan) Datuk Mohd Alias Abdul said:

The company does not have any business licence or office in Malaysia but has been operating in dozens of cities around the world through the Internet and smartphone application. What’s worrying is that Uber does not have a taxi permit issued by SPAD and it is also believed that its drivers do not have the public service vehicle (PSV) licence. This situation will cause many problems to the passengers in the event of any untoward incidents, crime cases, or road accidents.

He also added that Uber’s transport service had affected the income of taxi drivers in the Klang Valley as the company fixed its fares based on its estimation on the distance and time of service.

uberX Fares

Apart from that, Uber service providers did not have to bear the various costs of operation as normal taxi drivers, such as having to undergo periodical inspections at the computerised vehicle inspection centre (Puspakom).

Other reasons (against Uber) stated in The Sun Daily‘s are such as:

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  • Uber uses private vehicles to pick up its passengers. It violates the transport law in the country because a private vehicle cannot be used as public transport because it can endanger the safety of passengers.
  • Those private vehicles used by Uber might not have not undergone inspections at Puspakom.
  • Licensed taxi operators are required to pay insurance premiums four times higher than private vehicles, to ensure the safety of passengers and other road users in the event of accidents. Uber doesn’t.
  • The Uber service doesn’t give any indication whether its vehicles were covered by insurance.

To which Uber responded with an official statement, but whether or not Uber would be made illegal at the end of it all was still open for debate.

Note: Uber has already been banned in several other countries and major cities such as China, Thailand, Germany, Jakarta, and New Delhi. In the US, 57-year-old Uber driver Duncan Burton was arrested for raping an unconsciuos drunk female passenger while in Dehli, 32-year-old Uber driver Shiv Kumar Yadav was accused of raping a 27-year-old woman executive.

Uber Rape
(L) Duncan Burton & (R) Shiv Kumar Yadav

A month later, in September 2014, The Star Online reported that the Road Transport Department (JPJ) has decided to conduct a nationwide crack down beginning 1st October against individuals providing transportation services using the Uber application.

According to JPJ director-general Datuk Seri Ismail Ahmad, private vehicles (read: UberX) found providing the taxi-like services would be impounded. He also said that using private vehicles as public transports is an offence under Section 16 of the Land Public Transportation Act 2010. As such, individuals or companies providing the services could also be fined between RM1,000 and RM10,000 or jailed up to a year.

Obviously, it caused quite an uproar as many Malaysians are big fans of the service.

Well, guess what? It ain’t over yet.

Now, almost a year later, The Star Online is once again reporting that it’s not all settled and “fine and dandy” for the Uber service because local taxi drivers have called on Parliament to introduce a law banning vehicle-for-hire service Uber.

Uber Malaysia Illegal Service
Source: Reuters

The Metered Taxi Drivers Action Body (BBPTB) said although the Uber service was considered illegal, there were no existing laws in place to take them off the streets. “We demand that a motion on this issue be tabled and debated by MPs in Parliament until it can become a law to officially declare the service illegal,” BBPTB chairman Amran Jan told reporters after submitting a memorandum to parliamentarians on Tuesday (9th June).

They also urged for strong action to be taken against other private vehicle for hire apps such as Grabcar, Easy-Plus, and Blacklane.

Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, who received the memorandum from BBPTB, said services such as Uber would affect the “rice bowl” of local taxi drivers.

“There are certain issues, specifically related to monitoring, implementation and the quality of such services. It has been banned by SPAD, but it is as if these services have received the blessing of the authorities and are being practiced freely,” he said.

UBER App

Among other demands, the memorandum urged Parliament to put a stop to the Private Hired Vehicle license currently being mulled over by SPAD, and to grant more authority to the Communications and Multimedia Commission to regulate the mobile app.

What do you guys make of the above news? There hasn’t been any unfortunate incidents e.g. fatalities, rape cases, etc. surrounding Uber Malaysia yet (touch wood please!) so should it be made illegal just because it’s stiff competition for local taxi drivers? Can you imagine not being able to use the Uber service anymore now that you’ve gotten so comfortable with having it at your disposal?

Feel free to discuss that in the comments box below.

Sources: The Star Online (1), Houston ChronicleThe Sun Daily, Indian ExpressThe Star Online (2).

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