Uber Technologies Inc. said on Thursday that it would not withdraw its ride-sharing services, deemed illegal by the Karnataka transport department, in Bengaluru.
The company has also floated a public petition to garner support for ride-sharing, anticipating an imminent crackdown from the transport department.
“As we believe that UberPOOL is within the law, right now there is no push to stop the product.We have always said that ride share is something that is very much welcome for a city like Bengaluru,” said Christian Freese, general manager, Uber, Bengaluru.
State transport commissioner M.K.Aiyappa had given both Uber and Ola (ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd) time until Friday to withdraw their respective ride-sharing services, UberPOOL and Ola Share.
According to the transport department, the ride-hailing firms have contract carriage permits, which do not allow them to pick up and drop passengers during the course of a trip. Such a permit only allows for point-to-point pick-ups and drops.
The stage carriage permit, which allows pick ups and drops along a particular route, can only be accorded to Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation and school and college buses, according to the transport department.
“UberPOOL is a product that enables driver partners to pick up and drop identified riders through the Uber app under a single contract. When a rider chooses UberPOOL through the Uber app, he or she consents to another person sharing the trip. There is a clear understanding between all the riders on the trip and the driver partner that the trip and the vehicle will be shared. The app also identifies all the riders and the driver partner,” said an Uber spokesperson.
“The law permits a contract carriage permit-holder to stop to pick up or set down passengers who are included in the contractual understanding with the driver. UberPOOL fulfils this requirement and we believe that it does not violate the contract carriage permit,” the spokesperson said.
An Ola spokesperson did not immediately respond to a query on whether the company will stop Ola Share from Friday. Several company executives who declined to be named confirmed Ola has no plans to stop ride-sharing either.
Continuing the service might lead to a crackdown by the transport department, said Aiyappa.
The withdrawal of ride-sharing services is likely to impact the businesses of both firms, given that Bengaluru is one of their top three markets, alongside Delhi and Mumbai. Of late, both Ola and Uber have been aggressively promoting ride-sharing facilities.
Freese said Bengaluru is the fifth-largest market for UberPOOL, with about one-fourth of all the trips fulfilled by Uber in Bengaluru being POOL rides.
Freese did not disclose the number of rides completed by Uber in Bengaluru daily, but said more than one million consumers in the city have used POOL at least once.
The state transport department had forced shuttle service provider ZipGo to halt operations in Bengaluru in December 2015 on similar grounds.
The regulator said there was no provision in the Karnataka Motor Vehicle Rules of 1989 for services that compete with state-run city buses.
Similarly, bike taxis launched by Ola and Uber were deemed illegal by the Karnataka government. Both companies withdrew the services within a month of launch in March 2016.
Uber and SoftBank-backed Ola have struggled to comply with regulations, which the firms have contended need to be updated to accommodate new-generation products.
States such as Maharashtra and Karnataka, among others, have come up with guidelines to regulate these services after protests by traditional taxi operators.