The Delhi government wants Uber to be just another taxi company

A printed receipt for your Uber ride?
A printed receipt for your Uber ride?
Image: AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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The Delhi Transport Department has been busy: In the span of a month, it found out what Uber is, banned the on-demand car service from operating in the capital, and is now trying to make it play by modified rules on how a new breed of online transportation services can operate.

There’s one basic difference between a company like Uber and a radio taxi company such as Meru or Easy Cabs: the former does not operate taxis. Instead, it offers a technology platform to connect passengers to drivers, including those who do not have taxi licenses. But it’s becoming clear that the transport department wants Uber to operate more or less like every other radio-dispatched taxi company.

The company’s operations were banned in Delhi on Dec. 8, after a woman accused an Uber driver of raping her on Dec. 5.

After meeting with Uber yesterday, the department laid down a lengthy list of requirements that the company—along with any other “cab aggregators” that wish to do business in Delhi—must fulfill.

Among the requirements, Uber must:

  • procure a license to operate in the city
  • ensure adequate parking space for all taxis
  • maintain an initial fleet of at least 50 taxis, either owned or through an agreement with licensed taxi drivers, and eventually at least 200 taxis
  • maintain a 24-7 call center
  • have cabs prominently display the name of the licensee
  • install taxi meters, GPS devices, and panic buttons in all cabs
  • submit a list of all drivers to police
  • set up an adequate mechanism for receiving customer’s feedback and grievances
  • make all of its cabs white

The rules are largely unchanged from the 2006 Radio Taxi Scheme (pdf)—though there are alterations for the minimum fleet size (previously 500 taxis) and the inclusion of panic buttons.

Unsurprisingly, Uber did not react favorably to being lumped in with the industry that it is trying to displace.

“We are not a radio taxi company, therefore the Transport Department’s amendments to the radio taxi scheme do not help us serve our riders and drivers in Delhi,” a spokesman for Uber told Quartz. “It also does not accurately reflect the primary role that the Information Act 2000 plays in regulating intermediaries like Uber.”

The incumbent taxi industry, on the other hand, hailed the decision to tweak existing rules and require Uber’s compliance with them.

“The rules had become archaic and needed to be amended as the business models had changed. But everyone should be on a level playing field under the new rules,” Kunal Lalani, CEO of Mega Cabs and the president of Radio Taxi Association of India, told the Economic Times.

This is not the first time that Uber in India has been compelled to alter its preferred business practices in India. In November, it was forced by the Reserve Bank of India to stop accepting credit card payments, and to set up a new system with local payments firm Paytm, which allows users to load cash onto a virtual wallet for making transactions.