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Taxi and rideshare companies unhappy with current draft of rideshare bill

Taxify's drivers' app in use.
Taxify's drivers' app in use. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

According to representatives of rideshare companies Taxify and Uber as well as the local taxi drivers, none of the affected businesses are happy with the compromise presented by the work group busy with the Riigikogu’s so-called rideshare bill.

The bill, which aims to regulate sharing economy companies offering rideshare services, is widely seen as a pioneering attempt to regulate the disruptive business approach of companies like Uber, Airbnb, and the like. Since work on the bill turned out to be a lot more complicated than the bill’s initiators had expected, MP Aivar Kokk (IRL) said early on in 2017 that the Riigikogu’s Economic Affairs Committee was considering starting it again from scratch.

Work on the bill continued, and Kokk seemed to have changed his mind, as a proposal was presented the committee chairman called “more or less satisfactory” for both taxi and rideshare businesses.

Though none of them agree.

Taxi companies: Law pointless if there are no checks

CEO of Elektritakso, Ermo Kontson, said that though the taxi companies weren’t entirely against the suggested solution and though there were good points to it, the statement that it was agreeable to all involved parties was simply wrong.

To them, the biggest issue was that neither local councils nor the police had the necessary resources to conduct as many checks of the rideshare companies’ business as they could easily conduct of the taxi business. In the case of legal equality of the two, this was an issue, as the rideshare drivers could calmly go on breaking the new law, and not get registered anywhere.

“If there is no control, the law is pointless. I think that if they can’t or don’t want to conduct checks, then the rules simply need to be given up. A second more extreme option would be to simply close those [rideshare] platforms that are found to break the rules,” Kontson said.

Taxify and Uber unhappy with condition of car ownership

Rideshare companies Taxify and Uber find that the work group’s plan to make car ownership a condition is problematic. According to the solution as currently proposed, a rideshare driver would need to be at least liable for the car itself, i.e. listed as such in the car documents.

“The plan to limit ridesharing to a car’s liable user is unreasonable. This would represent a limitation for example for many families that use one car, as there can be only one liable driver per car, and only one person could therefore participate in rideshare services,” Uber Estonia CEO Enn Metsar told ERR.

Taxify CEO Martin Villig agrees. “If the bill would be turned into law in its current shape and with the limitation to the liable driver demanded by IRL, then 65 percent of all current rideshare drivers would have to stop offering services,” Villig said. A better approach would be to allow all those drivers to participate in ridesharing services who had the right to use the vehicle.

Metsar went even further in his criticism of the bill, saying that the current draft wasn’t aiming to regulate rideshare services, but “something else”, as it didn’t take into account the basic idea of ridesharing. The result would damage not only the ridesharing market, but developments in the sector on the whole, including those headed towards self-driving cars.

Villig is worried by the current draft’s prescription of electronic payment for rideshare services. The work group took this direction to be able to make rideshare services accountable in terms of taxes paid eventually, but the issue was that most transactions were paid for in cash. If this were to change, Villig said, an 18-month transitional period would be required to get customers accustomed to the idea of only paying for their rides electronically.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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