When will the citizens of Serbia be able to take advantage of the competition in public transport, like their counterparts in Croatia, France and most of the developed countries?
Due to the protest of 200 taxi drivers in Belgrade, the use of all Uber-like applications in Serbia is now questionable. The Serbian transport up Car:Go has suffered the most, with even state officials calling for a ban on the use of such apps.
The Blic asked the Ministry of Construction and Transport to give its view on who respects and who does not respect the laws, whether citizens will have be able to choose who and how will drive them, and whether the state plans to “kill” competition on behalf of taxi drivers.
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Although, Transport Minister Zorana Mihajlovic did criticize the taxi drivers who protested and used their cars to block downtown Belgrade, she did say to the taxi drivers that if they did not want Uber or Car:Go operating in Belgrade, than that’s how it would be. The Ministry of Transport says that the Minister’s words should not be interpreted as a ban to the use of these transport services, adding that this area had to be additionally regulated so that “all those involved in passenger transport will be able to use the services of professional drivers who are authorized to perform this kind of service”.
Nevertheless, the question remain – why should the authorities comply with the demands of 200 or so taxi drivers to the detriment of 7 million people in the country who want to have a cheaper and better transport service? Why Uber and Car: Go cannot be used in Serbia, which has become common practice in Europe? What does it mean when Assistant Minister of Transport says that he could not care less what Uber does in Croatia, following a question by journalist at a press conference? If Uber and Car:Go are not allowed to operate in Serbia, what is another solution for citizens to have more affordable and better quality taxi services?
The Ministry did form a task force that includes the members of all taxi associations, including the one that staged the protest in Belgrade, which is preparing amendments to the Law on Passenger Road Transport.
“In terms of Car:Go operating in Serbia, and considering that the protesters demanded for this company to be banned from Serbia, we can say that the company was not registered for passenger transport at the Business Register Agency, but rather for performing “consulting services in the field of information technology” although it performs public transport services. This is not allowed by law, and they have to adapt their operations to the current regulation about passenger transport. We are not competent to monitor their work since they come under the authority of the Tax Administration, the relevant inspectorate and the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications”, the Ministry of Transport says.
What follows is the amendments to the Law on Road Transport, which, as the Ministry says, will define in more detail the conditions for carrying out passenger transport, as regulated in the countries of the European Union.
“Please note that Uber and Car:Go are not widely accepted formats of transport in Europe. There are rulings of the European Court in Strasbourg and certain the German courts which have banned Uber from performing taxi services”, the Ministry adds.
The ministry underlines that the problem with Uber and Car:Go is twofold. On one hand, they use the services of amateur drivers who perform public transport services, and on the other, the payment model used here could be conducive to tax evasion, especially in terms of collecting payments through PayPal. In this way, the revenue is not generated in Serbia, but abroad, and the owners decide how much of the earned amount should be returned to Serbia, in order to cover the business costs.
“We have clearly stated that Uber and similar companies can use their applications in Serbia only if they hire professional drivers, who are authorized to perform public transport services. We do not see any reason why Uber and Car: Go would not adjust their business to the existing laws in Serbia. If they really want to carry out public transport services, why aren’t they doing so by, first and foremost, meeting the lawful conditions for this kind of activity?”, the Ministry says.
Why do people like to use Car: Go services?
The answer is simple – the ride is more affordable (up to 20% cheaper compared to classic taxi service and up to 40 percent on Sunday and at night). In addition, there are other possibilities that using the conventional taxis cannot provide, like tracking the taxi’s movement on a smartphone, checking the costs of the ride in advance, scheduling a ride and similar.
However, in order to continue in the public transport business in Serbia, Car: Go will have to meet the conditions. This company is currently operating under the Law on Tourism. Amendments to the Law on Passenger Road Transport will envisage provisions that will prevent and sanction the illegal organization of taxi transport services online and via smartphone applications.
The Digital Serbia Initiative believes the amendments to the regulations that will “prevent and sanction the illegal organization of taxi transport online and via smartphone applications” is not in accordance with the free market principles and go against the modern ways of doing business.
“We believe that such a move would further contribute to restricting competition and jeopardizing the quality of services that citizens need. The state’s job is to provide fair conditions for all market participants and to ensure compliance with the law. We believe that the state also needs to actively support innovative business, new business models and the transformation of the market and laws that regulate it in accordance with the development of modern technologies and the needs of today’s users. We are aware that this is a situation which other much more developed European countries, including our neighbouring countries, had encountered before Serbia. Despite all the initial difficulties, the United Kingdom, Germany, as well as Croatia, Hungary and Romania, have found ways to enable innovative business models to function, thus bolstering competitiveness”, the Digital Serbia Initiative underlines.
The founder and president of Car:Go, Vuk Guberinic told Prva TV that he has received the support from the Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabic. He said that he got a call from the Prime Minister, during which she told him that she supported the company’s work, while underlining that everyone must work in accordance with the law.
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