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Singapore to license taxi hailing-apps

Easy Taxi Servicos SA Chief Executive Officer Dennis Wang InterviewEasy Taxi Servicos SA Chief Executive Officer Dennis Wang Interview
Now you see 'em...Photograph by Nicky Loh — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Singapore said Friday it will start regulating companies that offer taxi-hailing apps such as Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft, in a response to the growing popularity of such services.

The island-state’s Land Transport Authority said it will require services to be licensed and that it expects to start awarding licenses valid for three years at a time from the second quarter of next year.

Key provisions of the license will be a ban on bidding or pre-trip tipping and a cap on booking fees. In addition, all information on fare rates and surcharges will have to be specified up front. Booking services will also have to provide basic customer support services such as lost and found and a channel for complaints.

Singapore’s taxis have struggled for various reasons to keep pace with demand for them for nearly four decades. There are frequent shortages, for instance, at bottlenecks such as the city’s international airport, Changi–exacerbated by a system of two-tier pricing for peak and off-peak hours that leads to a curious absence of drivers during off-peak hours.

Cab-hailing apps have been making big inroads into the business of ComfortDelgro, the biggest taxi operator in the statelet in recent years. Although Uber entered the market last year, the biggest challenger is GrabTaxi, which has operations across South East Asia.

The move doesn’t appear to be related to the controversies that have surrounded Uber in recent weeks: the LTA has been preparing its step for over a year, and has conducted lengthy consultations with the industry and with consumers.