Thailand to legalise ride-hailing services by early 2020: ministry

Thailand has drafted guidelines to regulate ride-hailing companies and aims to legalize the services by March 2020, the transport ministry said on Friday.

Ride-sharing services exist in a legal grey area in Thailand, with police routinely stopping and fining drivers because they are not properly registered.

The guidelines require private vehicles to be registered and equipped with a GPS system, the transport ministry said in a statement. Drivers will need a public driver's license.

Ride-hailing firms must verify the identities of drivers and operate a 24-hour complaint centre, the ministry said.

"We have to look at what is possible within the law to give choice to the public - not increase competition with taxis in the system," deputy permanent secretary Jirut Wisansitr told Reuters.

Ride-booking services are popular in the nation of 67 million for being sometimes cheaper and less likely to refuse to take passengers to their destinations than regular taxis, but they have irked traditional taxi drivers.

The proposed changes come after the Bhumjaithai Party campaigned in this year's election on a promise to legalize ride-hailing services. The party won enough seats to join a coalition government and was given responsibility for the transport ministry.

Some ride-hailing companies have been operating in Thailand's unregulated market for a few years now.

Singapore-based Grab offers rides in cars and on motorcycles, while its rival Get, a unit of Indonesia's Go-Jek, only offers motorcycle rides.

Thai companies have also invested in ride-sharing startups.