What Is Uber? Why Is It Banned In Some Countries?

With news of ride-sharing service Uber raising the ire of taxi drivers in the Klang Valley, we take a look at what Uber is and why so many cities around the world are banning it.

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Uber is a ride-sharing car service that allows users to book and hire vehicles and drivers through a mobile app

Uber is a ride-sharing car service that allows users to book and hire vehicles and drivers through the mobile app.

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Uber is a venture-funded startup and transportation network company based in San Francisco, California, that makes mobile apps that connect passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services. The company arranges pickups in dozens of cities around the world. Cars are reserved by sending a text message or by using a mobile app—the latter can also be used by customers to track their reserved car's location.

Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 70 cities today, Uber's rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.

What makes Uber so popular among users is the cashless system as fares are directly charged to your debit or credit card

What makes it so popular among users is the cash-less experience, with the fare being charged to your debit or credit card.

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One of the key benefits of Uber is its cash-less experience. You’ll need to link a credit or debit card to your account during sign up and Uber will charge you after each ride. So it is as easy as requesting for a ride from your smart phone, hop on and hop off without worrying about small change. The rates are calculated from the system and they will send a detailed receipt with complete fare breakdown by email.

The service was recently introduced in Malaysia in 2013 and has been steadily gaining popularity as an alternative public transportation

The service was recently introduced in Malaysia in 2013 and has been getting extremely popular as another alternative to the taxi

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Uber's transport service for the Klang Valley has been available since last year.

Syed Hamid said the popularity of the Uber application was an indication that the public wanted good taxi services and would not depend on regular taxis if their service was not up to mark.

While customers are happy with Uber, taxi operators in the city are irked and riled up because the service affects their livelihood. They have demanded government action against the service.

Despite this revolutionary service, many taxi operators in are irked and riled up because the service affects their livelihood and wants government action on the service.

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This is not something new for Uber, as the company faces similar opposition from taxi operators in different cities around the world. In Germany, cities such as Munich and Berlin are considering to ban Uber, citing the need for a license.

German taxi drivers protesting against Uber.

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Uber Technologies Inc., maker of the ride-hailing application that’s fighting bans by two German cities, may face additional setbacks in the country as other communities weigh blocking or restricting the service.

The Munich and Dusseldorf administrations agree with Berlin and Hamburg that those offering rides via Uber’s smartphone app need a cab driver’s license because they are doing so to earn a profit, representatives for the cities said.

Dusseldorf is considering taking legal action against Uber because the western German city considers the service illegal, Volker Paulat, a spokesman for the city government, said today in a phone interview.

Closer to home, a Jakartan official is threatening to ban Uber that he deems illegal

Closer to home, Uber is facing threats from a Jakarta official that the service is illegal and might be banned.

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The Indonesian capital is threatening to shut down controversial smartphone car-hailing service Uber due to licensing issues a week after it officially launched in the city, an official said on Wednesday.

Jakarta authorities are just the latest to target Uber, an app that has sparked protests from taxi drivers in several countries as it allows customers to hail private rides via their phones. "In our opinion, the service Uber provides is just like a taxi service, but it doesn't have a licence to operate as one in this city," Jakarta transport agency chief Muhammad Akbar said.

Authorities are concerned that Uber's service will undercut the current market for taxis and that the company may evade tax if not registered legally, Akbar said.

In South Korea, Seoul says Uber causes concern for passenger safety

The popular app is also facing opposition further east, as South Korean capital Seoul said that the app causes concern for passenger's safety

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South Korea's capital Seoul said Monday it planned to ban the smartphone car-hailing service Uber, saying it raised passenger safety issues and threatened the livelihood of licensed taxi drivers. The Uber app which allows clients to connect directly with "black car" services was launched in Seoul in August last year.

"We are looking into related laws to block Uber and similar apps that arrange such illegal transportation activities," the council said in a statement. "Uber users should be aware that it's hard to be covered by insurance even if a car accident occurs, let alone the issues of potential mechanical problems and background of drivers," it said.

In New South Wales, Australia, authorities insist that Uber drivers need to be licensed and accredited

The authorities insist that Uber drivers need to be licensed.

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On April 30, 2014, Transport for New South Wales, the government authority regarding transportation in New South Wales, Australia, responded to the introduction of ride-sharing function of Uber and clarified that "if a NSW driver is taking paying members of the public as passengers, the driver and the vehicle must operate in accordance with the Passenger Transport Act" and "Under the act, such services must be provided in a licensed taxi or hire car, by an appropriately accredited driver, authorised by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS)."

The taxi industry along Australia's eastern seaboard have upped the ante in its battle with ride-sharing company Uber, which it claimed had engaged in illegal and unethical corporate behaviour. The app-based Uber, which has ignored cease-and-desist orders from the Queensland government and raised the ire of other states, most recently South Australia, was presented as public enemy number one at the Taxi Council of Queensland's annual conference on Tuesday. Transport Minister Scott Emerson issued the cease and desist order against Uber in May, but the company continued to operate, resulting in several fines being issued to drivers.

In Europe, taxi drivers have been protesting and spreading wide, from France to London, and is being dubbed the "Ubergeddon"

The war on Uber, dubbed “Ubergeddon” by the Wall Street Journal, is spreading in Europe. More than 30,000 cab and limo drivers have promised to bring traffic to a standstill in major European cities on Wednesday to protest Uber, the ridesharing service that has disrupted the traditional taxi model in the United States and beyond.

Taxi drivers are angry at regulations that apply to them, but not Uber. In London, cabbies complain that calculating fares with a smartphone app is tantamount to running a taxi meter, which only the city’s black taxis can do legally.

But the power of Uber and the growing popularity of its app have so rattled the black cab drivers that they have pushed London's transport regulator to ask the High Court to rule on the legality of such applications. They also plan to converge near Trafalgar Square on June 11 for a protest that could paralyse central London, following strikes and other actions by drivers in cities such as Paris and Milan. "We understand it's a competitive market place, but they're not playing by the rules," Jim Thompson, a taxi driver of 30 years, told Reuters during a coffee and cigarette break in the financial district. "We're fighting for our livelihoods here. No one's going to take it lying down."

Many cities in the US have been opposing the San Francisco-based company. Some cities have already passed laws and fines to stop the service.

Boston Taxi Drivers Association (BTDA), the union for Boston cabs, has led the fight in trying to get Uber out of the city

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Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles recently fined the operators of both innovative car services, and last week the government issued cease and desist orders demanding both stop operating or their part-time drivers would face more fines.

But the most contentious fight is taking place in Boston, where the Boston Taxi Drivers Association (BTDA), the union for Boston cabs, has led the fight in trying to get Uber out of the city. Two weeks ago this fight finally came to a head when the BTDA organized a “rolling rally” outside of Uber’s offices in downtown Boston in which taxi drivers from around the city circled the block, honking continuously for an hour.

In a statement about the protest, BTDA said they were “calling on the Mayor of Boston and the Police Commissioner to order all Uber-X and Uber-XL for-hire transportation vehicles off the streets of Boston until the city can regulate and license all Uber drivers and cars.” At the urging of the BTDA, the city of Boston has been working with a transportation task force to establish regulations for the car-sharing industry. Soon after the rally, Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh voiced his frustration, saying to the Boston Herald, “This needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. I want the regulations soon.”

Despite anger from taxi drivers, many users are unsympathetic to them, citing poor service, bad experiences, safety woes, uncomfortable cars - people would rather pay for better, more luxurious rides

Despite the anger from taxi drivers, many users are unsympathetic to them, citing poor service, bad experiences and don't mind to pay for a better ride.

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Regular Uber user K. Anand said its service was much better than the regular taxi services that he had used before. "It has a very good pick-up time. You don't hear excuses such as 'we don't go there', and 'it's jam at this time' and all that you hear from normal taxis," he said, adding that contrary to what taxi drivers said, Uber services were relatively cheaper.

Anand said Uber drivers added in extra services such as providing water for free during the ride as well as the absence of a surcharge after midnight which made the experience all the more satisfying. "These taxis are feeling threatened. They know there is an option cheaper than them. "If the taxi services are so good, why should they worry about people using Uber?"
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The general public have very little sympathy for the plight of these cab drivers. Looking at the comments at TheMalaysianInsider’s facebook post, many had welcomed Uber as the much needed competition that offers safe and clean rides. Mocking the taxi association’s “illegal” claim, some had commented that the legal taxis are smelly and not fit to be used on the roads. Generally people find local taxis appalling which is why Uber is seen as a positive alternative.

The Washington Post sums up Malaysians' sentiment perfectly: tradition cannot stand in the way of innovation, the need for the taxi companies to adapt is ever more urgent.

Ridesharing is a winning situation for everyone except established cab companies, who argue they should have a monopoly on driving people around town. And, as we’ve seen in Virginia and elsewhere, cab companies have clout. Across the country they are leveraging their political connections to convince city officials to regulate, limit or outright ban ridesharing altogether.

Taxi drivers view Uber as a threat to their livelihood — but the conflict between disruptive innovation and industries being disrupted has a long history. Roman historian Pliny the Elder reported the tale of a radical inventor who brought a new type of unbreakable glass before the Emperor Augustus. The ruler feared the invention would undermine the value of his gold and silver, and had the innovator executed. What we now call “flexible glass” only reappeared sometime in the past 100 years.

“Black cabs have been a symbol of London for many decades, known across the world. But symbols, no matter how iconic, cannot be allowed to stand in the way of innovation,” Simon Walker of Britain’s Institute of Directors told the BBC. “Uber and its rival apps are an example of the positive disruption new technology brings, offering consumers new choices about how to travel. … The battle over taxi apps gets to the heart of what creative destruction means. As a nation, we have to decide whether we want to open ourselves up to more choice and competition, or protect existing industries at the expense of consumers.”

Do you use Uber? What do you think of the service compared to normal taxis? Let us know on Facebook or Tweet us!

Also on SAYS: Is Uber really illegal in Malaysia?

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