PARLIAMENT

Regulations for taxi apps on the way

Taxi and limo operators say the new booking apps are not competing on a level playing field, largely because they do not have to meet the stringent requirements imposed on transport providers.
Taxi and limo operators say the new booking apps are not competing on a level playing field, largely because they do not have to meet the stringent requirements imposed on transport providers.PHOTO: REUTERS

The slew of taxi apps providers here will soon have to meet some regulatory requirements, such as having relevant and adequate insurance.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo told Parliament yesterday that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is studying the issue.

"Third-party taxi booking applications are currently allowed to operate in Singapore without regulation," Mrs Teo said. "However, to protect the safety, interest of commuters, some basic regulations may be required."

Her comments were in response to MP Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC), who asked how the authorities were addressing the spate of taxi apps.

In the past two years, at least four such apps have been launched here, with more expected to arrive.

Their presence has riled incumbent taxi and limo operators, who say the newcomers are not competing on a level playing field, largely because they do not have to meet stringent requirements imposed on transport providers.

Similar accusations have arisen in cities where companies such as Uber and GrabTaxi operate. Germany has banned Uber outright, while Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have restricted the use of taxi apps to non-peak periods.

In response to Mrs Teo's announcement, ComfortDelGro Corp, the largest taxi operator here, said: "As a service provider, safeguarding the interests of our commuters has always been a top priority, and we welcome any regulatory requirements towards this end."

Mr Singh also asked whether the new taxi apps have helped "address peak-hour taxi demand" or when it rains.

Mrs Teo said not quite. These apps "provide commuters and taxi drivers with an additional means of making and accepting taxi bookings".

"However, they do not increase the supply of taxis per se and hence will not help the situation if availability of supply is the constraint during the peak hours and inclement weather," she explained.

Hence, Mrs Teo said, Singapore's taxi Quality of Service standards will still be necessary to optimise availability.

"What Mr Pritam has highlighted is the fact that when we have these third-party applications, it could affect the taxi companies' ability to fulfil those Quality of Service standards," she said,

The LTA will decide on the next step after examining relevant data to determine the impact, she added.

christan@sph.com.sg