Uber no more than a taxi company

I applaud London for having the guts to revoke Uber's licence to operate in the city (Uber's London licence revoked; Sept 23).

Singapore must also take action.

Uber girds itself in the glamorous cloak of the "sharing economy", but in reality, it is a taxi company operating without regulation or paying its associated costs. There is no sharing when the majority of its drivers rent cars.

It has an unethical business model that seeks to underprice legitimate taxi companies by heavily subsidising fares. It lost US$2.8 billion (S$3.8 billion) last year. Its weapon is its investors' deep pockets.

In other industries, such as the steel industry, this would be akin to dumping and be subject to punitive government action.

Uber is bad for an upwardly mobile society. We see many young people becoming Uber drivers instead of taking up jobs where they can look forward to longer-term career development and progression.

There are certainly commendable benefits to Uber.

Mobile taxi booking apps have revolutionised commuters' access to rides and broken some of the bad habits of taxi drivers.

Competition will trigger further reviews by taxi companies leading to better pricing and affordability.

But we need a level playing field to compete.

Anyone who rents a car to provide commuter transport for a fare is a taxi driver. This is like the old individually owned Yellow Top cabs.

Such drivers should follow all the licensing and regulations applicable, including a minimum age and driving experience.

Uber needs to be regulated as a taxi company. It should certify to the authorities that it is not engaging in "service dumping" through quarterly financial statements.

Commuters love Uber and other private-hire services because of the easier access and lower fares. But the Government needs to be tough and act for the longer-term good of Singapore.

Jacob Tan Teck Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2017, with the headline 'Uber no more than a taxi company'. Print Edition | Subscribe