Saudi official says Uber-style taxi services are ‘illegal’

Roads and Transportation Administration in Makkah authorities say companies like EasyTaxi and Uber do not have an official licenses

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Spokesman for the Roads and Transportation Administration in Makkah Omar Bamesfar said that foreign taxis that function through smart applications are illegal and do not have an official license from the ministry to run their activities within Saudi Arabia.

He noted that the ministry does not have any information about the foreign companies EasyTaxi and Uber and the nature of their work, Al-Madina newspaper said.

Bamesfar added that the ministry is coordinating with the concerned authorities to compel these companies to apply for necessary regulatory permits from all concerned agencies. The management and operation of these services take place within these companies from destinations outside Saudi Arabia.

Director General of Uber in Saudi Arabia Majid Abokhatr explained that Uber is a technology company that does not own cars or hire drivers. “Instead, we are in partnership with licensed operators to provide commercial transport service and that our role in Uber is to allow them to use technology for electronic booking in our system that work on services connected to drivers and passengers to help them increase the effectiveness of their services,” said Abokhatr.

He said Uber as a technology company provides digital services to licensed operators. “We’re fully aware that we are working in a new environment and that may cause some ambiguity about our work. But we are having positive dialogue with a range of employers in this area about our technology and the right place for us. As we have noted that the Saudi government seeks to facilitate the movement of people in the cities and welcomes global technologies that provide safe and reliable transport options to passengers,” he added.

Chairman of the National Committee for Land Transport Council of Saudi Chambers Saud Al-Nufaye warned that the work of these companies is a clear violation of the system, especially since there were several complaints against them.

“These companies do not comply with the regulations for running taxis licensed by the Ministry of Transport, but provide services through the application using private cars leased and operated by local companies. This is against government regulations and there must be concerted efforts to prevent their work,” said Al-Nufaye.

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on Jan. 4, 2016.