Singapore Will Introduce New Regulations For Taxi Booking Apps In 2015

Singapore will next year introduce new regulations to manage the numerous taxi-booking app services that are available in the country.

The country’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) today outlined a framework to “safeguard commuter safety and interests” in response to the rapid rise of apps like Uber, Hailo, GrabTaxi and Rocket Internet-backed Easy Taxi. The organization expects the regulations to be effective within the first half of next year.

Singapore may be a relatively small country with a population of around five million, but there are nearly 30,000 registered taxi cabs and car ownership is expensive. In a recent interview, Hailo’s Ron Zeghibe told TechCrunch that it was “pretty clear” that taxi apps have taken off in the country.

The proposed framework isn’t likely to cause much chaos for these companies. They will be required to register with the TLA, and provide the cost of fares upfront, which they already do. They must also offer “basic” customer support services, and all drivers should hold Taxi Driver’s Vocational Licences. That’s another thing each company already adheres to, even drivers of UberX — the ride-sharing service — are commercially licensed in Singapore.

One clause may be problematic for GrabTaxi and Easy Taxi, however, and that’s a proposal that passengers should not have to disclose their intended destination as part of their booking.

From the LTA announcement:

Taxi booking services cannot require commuters to specify their destinations before they can make bookings

While the taxi industry has shared that knowing prospective passengers’ destinations can encourage drivers to accept bookings, there are concerns that some taxi drivers may choose their passengers and avoid taking bookings to certain destinations. LTA has thus decided that it should be left to commuters to decide if they want to provide this information.

Uber and Hailo adhere to this, but GrabTaxi and Easy Taxi may need to adjust their apps in response, perhaps making end location data optional. Neither company provided comment to TechCrunch at the time of writing. Uber and GrabTaxi both released positive statements when contacted.

“Uber welcomes the LTA’s announcement to introduce a new regulatory framework for third party taxi booking apps; this is great news for residents and visitors to Singapore and especially for taxi drivers,” said Mike Brown, Uber’s general manager for Southeast Asia.

In addition, an Uber representative told TechCrunch that these rules will apply only to taxi services, and not its UberX or UberExec services.

A Hailo spokesperson told us the following:

Hailo’s game plan has always been to constructively disrupt Singapore’s taxi booking and payment status quo through technology and partnership.

We are not seeking to introduce unlicensed vehicles or impose prices that vastly exceed the regulated meter and we aim to innovate constructively within the current legal and regulatory framework.

We’ll add other statements as we receive them.

Update: A GrabTaxi spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company doesn’t have plans to alter its app, but it will “continue to seek guidance” from the LTA.

“There are no issues with implementation as we’re already compliant with most of the regulations. We believe that these regulations are a progressive development and a step in the right direction,” the spokesperson added.

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