Uber app shutdown postponed to April 15

The Uber app was set to be deactivated on April 8 after being acquired by rival Grab last month. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - The Uber app, which was due to be deactivated on April 8, will now stay on till April 15 as the competition watchdog decides on its next move.

In a statement released on Friday (April 6), 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 proposed measures 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's 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 commission said in a statement.

The commission on March 30 said it had grounds to suspect that Grab and Uber 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 independent 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."

When contacted, a Grab spokesman said: "Grab continues to engage closely with the CCCS. We've had productive discussions on our alternative proposals, which more appropriately address the CCCS' objectives during this interim period, and which takes into account our role in Singapore's vibrant point-to-point transport industry and how Grab serves commuters and drivers.

"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."

In the meantime, she said the Grab app is operating normally; and that the extension gives Uber drivers "more time to sign up on alternative platforms".

Elsewhere in the region, Uber told the Philippine competition commission that its exit from the region was final.

According to social media site Rappler, Uber Asia Pacific chief business officer Brooks Entwistle said: "Our funding is gone. Our people are gone. We don't intend to come back to these markets."

Mr Entwistle was speaking at a hearing conducted by the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) on Thursday (April 5 ).

The PCC has also proposed interim measures on both parties, similar to CCCS' proposed measures.

At the hearing, Grab's external legal counsel Arlene Maneja said these measures were "unnecessary" because the commission's concerns "are not really real".

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