In Estonia Uber to be treated equally to a traditional taxi service
Uber and other innovative service providers in the transport sector have raised questions among both competitors and consumers about the nature and regulation of taxi services. Estonia is the first country to pass a law that gives these questions legal answers and creates confidence that both provision of the service and its users are completely safe from the point of view of the state and the legislator.
The new Public Transport Act, which enters into force on 1 November 2017, will ease the differences between traditional taxi services and ride-sharing. The most important innovation is that the law no longer regulates ride-sharing separately, while at the same time relaxing current taxi service requirements. The new law divides taxi services into four:
1. Classic taxis with an illuminated sign (plus the carrier’s name or trademark) and a taximeter (plus a price list and printer).
2. Cars that can be ordered through a mobile application and for which payment will be made through the help of the mobile application.
3. Cars with a taximeter but with no illuminated sign.
4. Cars with an illuminated sign but with no taximeter.
This means that taxi services can be provided in four different ways, but each variation has different rights. A taximeter entitles the holder to serve customers without a mobile application. The illuminated sign and the name of the carrier on the right hand side of the car or trademark entitles the holder to drive in the public transport lane. A taxi service provider without an illuminated sign or taximeter cannot use the public transport lane and all billing needs to be done through the mobile application. Taxi drivers who provide their services through a mobile application can put an illuminated sign on their vehicle but the vehicle and the driver must have all necessary permits issued. As an exception, ride-sharing is not a taxi service if the driver of the vehicle does it for personal use and on a planned route and if the purpose is not to earn income. In sum the taxi service requirements have been relaxed and the taxi services offered by Uber or Taxify are now placed on an equal legal footing with traditional taxi services.