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Indonesian capital threatens to ban Uber car app

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 (Aug 20).

JAKARTA: 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 (Aug 20).

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 told AFP. "Registered taxis in Jakarta have to meet certain standards, including some to do with safety, so if Uber wants to operate here, it must be held to the same standards - otherwise it's not fair."

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. The agency is working with the ministry for IT and communications to have the app shut down, Akbar said, adding that it had invited Uber to a meeting a month ago but never received a response.

Uber could not be immediately contacted for comment, but has fended off similar criticism in the past by explaining its service merely links customers looking for a ride with those who have a car, and does not own or operate its own fleet.

Uber began by linking users of its apps to luxury car operators, but then decided to offer a broader selection of cars and include a ridesharing option. In Jakarta, it currently only links to services offering paid-for trips in upmarket cars. The California-based app, operating in 170 cities spread across dozens of countries, is the most prominent of several that are shaking up the traditional taxi landscape in cities around the world.

Uber has already faced significant resistance from regulators in several countries, who accuse it of unfair competition and lack of standards. Jakarta is flooded with some 20 million people on any given work day and taxis are a common mode of transport in the congested city, which is poorly covered by public transport.