Illegal social media ride-shares competing with taxi services

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Taxis in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Another competitor has popped up aside so-called taxi applications and regular taxi services - ride-sharing offers in social media groups. The illegal service has taken off in Estonian cities such as Tartu.

A Facebook group "Kained autojuhid Tartus ja Tartumaal" ("Sober drivers in Tartu and Tartu County") has garnered 13,000 members, as of Wednesday. In principle, the group is a marketplace for self-proclaimed taxi drivers taking illegal fares, all the while selling alcohol and other products in some cases. Similar groups, both smaller and larger, exist for other counties.

Aivar Nisu, a taxi driver in Tartu for 33 years, says he is worried about the growth of the social media group. "Since work has pulled back in relation to the corona, then now with this Facebook group, it has decreased our work significantly. And let's be hones, they do not have to meet any requirements. It is happening daily, the main work there is at nights, but there are daytime drivers," Nisu explained.

The local municipality government should conduct checks into the taxi service provider - whether they have a taxi permit, a service card and a vehicle card. However, since the unofficial taxis are differentiate on the street, conducting any checks is difficult.

The city of Tartu is hoping on the responsibility of its citizens. "Our call is for people to use taxi apps and regular taxis. In addition, the Tax and Customs Board is planning surveillance to see what peoples' tax behavior is like," Tartu deputy mayor Raimond Tamm said.

According to legislation, the surveillance authority cannot make an order to a driver on social media to verify their legality. For this reason, it is difficult to even check taxi apps, since vehicles offering services there also do not stick out in regular traffic.

Tartu city government however thinks these rules could use changing. "Actually, a state supervisor could have the right to carry out inspections. The same way it is possible to carry out checks for the sale of alcohol today. We see that it should be the same for taxi services," Tamm said.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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