Uber says the proposed new section requiring e-hailing companies to disconnect driver-partners operating without licences is discriminatory. File picture: Lukas Coch / EPA.
Pretoria - Uber has expressed its concern over the National Land Transport Amendment Bill, which was passed by the National Assembly in April 2018, in particular the proposed amendments on area restrictions and punitive measures on its operators.

“Currently, Uber drivers apply for and ideally are granted operating licences as metered taxis," said Ubers’s Michael Evows during a market inquiry into the land-based public passenger transport sector public hearings at the Manhattan Hotel in Pretoria on Thursday.

"This is in accordance with a decision of the Transport Appeal Tribunal. The new section of the bill substantially reproduces the provisions in the section which deals with metered taxis. The cut-and-paste exercise is inappropriate.”

The inquiry, chaired by Competition Commission chief legal counsel,Bukhosibakhe Majenge, heard submissions from the Department of Transport, Uber, Taxify and Intercape.

'Discriminatory'

Evows stressed that the area restrictions in the amendment bill were outdated and reduced competition, among other things. He said the introduction of a new criminal offence for e-hailing companies was discriminatory.

“The proposed new section requires e-hailing companies to disconnect driver-partners operating without a valid licence," Evows said. "The offence is arguably discriminatory since there is no similar provision for entities which employ or contract with metered taxi or minibus taxi operators.

“The offence is arguably irrational, since it fails to take account of the extremely slow and complex process regarding the issue of operating licences. Until the operating licence system works efficiently and speedily, it makes no sense for the new punitive system to be introduced.”

He also said it was inappropriate for municipalities to issue operating licences to e-hailing vehicles as they (e-hailing vehicles) required the ability to move from one municipality to another.

'Not fundamentally different' 

Prior to Evows’s presentation, Hament Patel, chief director at the National Department of Transport said the amended bill looked into filling in the e-hailing gap not included before. He said he was well aware of quarrels between metered taxi and e-hailing operators; however, there was not much difference between the two services.

“The functions of metered taxis are not fundamentally different from those of the application; they are the same; the only difference is technology. With metered taxis, the meter calculates the distance, among other things, to charge per trip just as how the app calculates the only difference is technology.”

The commission will enter its second day of public hearings on Friday.

Pretoria News