Bill tabled to regulate taxi booking apps

Bill tabled to regulate taxi booking apps
Under the Third-Party Taxi Booking Service Providers Bill, firms behind the apps will have to apply to LTA for a licence to operate here.

Third-party cab booking apps may soon have to follow a set of standards - the first to be put forward in a largely-unregulated landscape - or risk shutting down in Singapore.

The Third-Party Taxi Booking Service Providers Bill 2015, which was introduced yesterday, would allow the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to manage this booming industry, which has at least five players here, including GrabTaxi, Hailo and Uber.

Firms behind these apps will have to apply to LTA for a licence to operate here. There could be different classes of registration, depending on the number of taxis which use the app, and the type of booking service being provided. They will likely have to use only licensed taxis and cabbies, and provide information on fares and surcharges up front to commuters.

These measures were brought up by LTA in November last year. They also include providing basic customer support services, such as a lost-and-found service and avenues for complaints. Other rules include banning bidding and pre-trip tipping for taxi services.

The introduction of the Bill in Parliament by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew marks the first step in setting up the regulatory framework to govern these apps. This would offer a broad oversight compared to other cities, some of which have banned the apps outright or allow their use only during off-peak hours.

Based on the proposed law, app companies will be given three months to apply for a licence. Those which flout the rules face penalties ranging from fines of up to $100,000 per case, to suspensions of up to three months.

In severe cases, their licences could be revoked. LTA may also intervene if the app is found to be operating in a manner which may adversely affect the availability of taxi services that can be hailed on the road.

Companies contacted said they are prepared for the new law. Easy Taxi Asia's regional managing director Li Jianggan said it has invested in a new call centre and customer relationship management system.

Uber Singapore general manager Yaniv Goder said its app already has "a fare estimate function... (which) helps safeguard riders' interest".

This article was first published on April 14, 2015.
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