Taxi-booking apps get go-ahead to operate in Singapore, but with conditions

GrabTaxi and Hailo receive certificates of registration to offer taxi booking services in the country, but have to adhere to rules set by the regulator including using only licensed taxi drivers.

Two third-party taxi booking apps have been given the go-ahead to operate in Singapore, but will need to adhere to specific guidelines set by the transport regulatory.

GrabTaxi and Hailo Singapore received certificates of registration to offer their taxi booking apps in the city-state, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Valid for three years from December 1, 2015, the certificates are issued based on requirements outlined in the newly enacted Third-Party Taxi Booking Service Providers Act, which mandates that third-party taxi booking services operating more than 20 taxis must register with the LTA. The act was first announced in November last year.

Registered app operators must adhere to terms and conditions outlined by the LTA, such as using only drivers that have valid Taxi Driver's Vocational Licenses and providing "basic" customer support services including lost-and-found services. These service providers also must clearly differentiate between their taxi-booking offering and non-taxi booking options, such as private car-sharing services.

Existing service providers without the certificate are allowed to operate if their operations had commenced before September 2015 and if they had applied to register before December 2015. They can continue to do so while their application is being processed by the transport regulator.

LTA said it was currently processing applications from UberTaxi, MoobiTaxi, Karhoo, and ConnexTaxi. The latter two vendors must receive the required certificate before operating their service, as they did not begin operations before September.

The application from Pair Taxi, which launched its service last month, was rejected because its fare model did not satisfy the required regulations concerning fare charging.

Service providers that operate without the required certifications face a fine of up to S$10,000 or jail sentence of up to six months, or both.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in October that ride-sharing services should be assessed to ensure a level playing field for market players.