Uber to become technology company to avoid legal hurdles in Indonesia: Report

Uber is looking to formally establish itself as an e-commerce company that provides smartphone applications in Indonesia to avoid legal hurdles that may come out of a current police investigation into the company's operations.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Uber Technologies plans to pass itself off as a technology company in Indonesia as a way to avoid legal hurdles after local police launched an investigation into the company.

The Wall Street Journal reported that following complaints from traditional local taxis that the startup's practices are illegal, as it does not have a taxi licence or use meters, Uber is seeking a licence that would formally establish it as an e-commerce company.

The move would help highlight Uber's claim that its role in the market is be a smartphone applications provider.

"Uber is only a smartphone application," said Alan Jiann, head of Uber's operations in Indonesia. "We don't need a transportation licence, as all we make is a smartphone app that connects riders to drivers."

The Wall Street Journal added that Jiang had claimed Uber is in the process of setting up a foreign investment company in Indonesia as a way to mark the company's confidence in continuing operations in the country.

The news comes after Uber was facing similar regulatory difficulties in France, where the government ordered a nationwide suspension of UberPop, which has been illegal in the country since January, according to reports by Reuters.

The ban came weeks after two of its bosses, director general Thibaud Simphal and director for Western Europe Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, will face trial in September over the company's allegedly "illegal" ride-booking practices, after violent protests by taxi drivers against the app.

The investigation by French police is targeting UberPop, a service offered by the company in which clients are put in touch with cheaper, unlicensed drivers who are generally everyday people trying to make extra money.

Meanwhile, in the company's home base of San Francisco, Uber drivers, along with other ride-sharing services, will no longer be able to turn onto one of the city's main roads, Market Street, between 3rd and 8th streets.

The ban is part of the Safer Market Street plan (PDF) that was put forward by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) as way to increase safety and reduce traffic on Market Street.

However, Uber is protesting against the plans, according to Hoodline, on the basis that it believes it should have the same access as taxis -- despite not having a taxi licence. In a petition against the proposed restriction, Hoodline said Uber stated that the traffic restrictions would only cause more congestion, as "driver partners will be forced to take longer, more complicated routes to pick up or drop off passengers".

The petition was taken down after a security researcher changed it to say it supported a slip and slide down Market Street.

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