Shutdown date of Uber app postponed

Extension until April 15 comes as Singapore's competition watchdog mulls over next move

The Uber app, which was due to be deactivated on April 8, can now be used until April 15, as Singapore's competition watchdog decides on its next move.

In a statement released yesterday, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) said Uber and Grab have proposed a set of "alternative interim measures" ahead of the commission's decision to impose its own set of interim measures.

These are understood to help preserve part of the status quo prior to Grab's acquisition of Uber's South-east Asian business.

"To facilitate CCCS' deliberation on their written representations and the proposed alternative interim measures, the parties have agreed to extend the initial shutdown date of the Uber ride-hailing app in Singapore from April 8 to April 15, 2018," the CCCS said.

On March 30, the commission said it had grounds to suspect that Grab and Uber - which announced their acquisition deal on March 26 - have infringed the Competition Act, but would not go into the reasons for its suspicion.

The authority proposed interim measures to preserve competition while it investigates the deal. These measures, which have not been imposed, included making Grab and its American ride-hailing rival Uber maintain pricing, pricing policies and product options as they were before the deal.

The commission also said then that if interim measures were to be imposed, both companies must not take any action that will lead to the integration of their businesses in Singapore, and affect the viability and saleability of the businesses.

They also should not take actions that could prejudice the commission's ability, power and options to subsequently direct the divestment of business operations in the affected markets.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng said a consolidation of the ride-hailing market was inevitable.

"It is undeniable that commuters and drivers alike have benefited from the intense competition between Grab and Uber for the past years. But with both companies burning furiously through venture capital funds and are still not profitable, it is a no-brainer that such a situation is not sustainable," he said.

"It is unrealistic for commuters, drivers and the Government to expect this situation to continue in perpetuity."

A spokesman for Grab said: "Grab continues to engage closely with the CCCS. We have had productive discussions on our alternative proposals, which more appropriately address the CCCS' objectives during this interim period.

"We hope the CCCS will complete its review in an expeditious manner, so that we can continue competing with incumbent transport companies and with new entrants."

Meanwhile, Grab's ride-hailing app hung yesterday afternoon, its second glitch this week. It would not comment when asked if the repeated fault was related to increased volume arising from its takeover of Uber's regional business.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2018, with the headline 'Shutdown date of Uber app postponed'. Print Edition | Subscribe