Uber taxis in Dubai facing crackdown?
Some of the drivers that work with Uber were given fines by RTA.
Some local drivers of the popular app-based transportation service Uber are reporting a crackdown at the hands of Dubai's Road and Transport Authority (RTA), amid an ongoing dispute about the company's operations in the Emirate.
During a recent assignment at Dubai International Financial Centre, a Khaleej Times reporter travelling in an Uber car was stopped by plainclothes Emirati officials who enquired whether the car was an Uber. The driver was asked to pull over and step out of the vehicle. Two other vehicles were going through the same process.
"That was RTA. I was given a Dh2,000 fine," said the driver, who asked to remain anonymous. "This has been happening to a lot of Uber drivers recently."
The driver went on to allege that he believed that the recent crackdowns were due to an ongoing "fight" between Uber and RTA.
Some local social media users reported similar experiences.
"RTA has been fining left and right! I'm not sure exactly what for. Transport companies are suffering," tweeted one Dubai resident.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, Christopher Free, Uber's UAE General Manager, confirmed that some of the drivers that work with Uber have reported such incidents taking place.
"We've been aware of some of these fines that drivers using mobile platforms have received," he said. "It's up to us as a responsible technology company to continue to engage with all the government stakeholders we have, and that includes the RTA, to really understand how we can allow these types of platforms to exist in the market."
Free added that when such fines are given out, the company "takes care" of its partners and helps pay the fines. RTA did not respond to Khaleej Times' requests for comment on the incidents.
At the moment, RTA and Uber are unable to find a solution to allow the company to operate within the legal framework of the emirate, because no legislation exists to regulate such companies. RTA has said that rules governing companies such as Uber will come into effect in 2016.
"We've maintained a relationship with the RTA and continue to work with them on what a potential solution could be," Free said.
In the rest of the world, Uber relies on individual drivers who are required to have driving licences and pass background checks and mostly operate their own vehicles, on their own hours. In Dubai, however, Uber must partner with local limousine companies.
"The UAE is the only country in the Gulf that does not let individuals work with us," Karima Berkani, Marketing Manager of Uber, recently told Khaleej Times.
Uber executives, on their part, have repeatedly expressed their desire to work with Dubai's government, especially in the lead-up to Dubai Expo 2020.
"We'd like to replicate in the next five years what we've done in the last two years," Free noted. "I think we can really see how we've started to change the fabric of the city."
Free noted that Uber is particularly keen to help provide transport to areas of Dubai that will expand over the next several years as the Emirate prepares for the Expo.
"My view for Uber is to really be an integral part of that growth," Free said. "We've engaged with various stakeholders on how Uber can fit into Expo 2020."
The UAE is not the only country in which Uber has run into difficulties with authorities recently.
In April, for example, a Brazilian judge ordered Uber to suspend services in Brazil following complaints from taxi driver's unions, although the order was revoked several weeks later. Last year, the company also ran into legislative battles in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, among other countries.
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