Uber, a licensed taxi substitute operating in more than 200 cities worldwide launched in Geneva this week.
The controversial service connects people with a “private driver” at the tap of a button, boasting “Anytime! Anywhere! Without cash!” But all is not as it seems: the company ignores local licensing rules. Recently, licensed cabbies in London and Berlin demonstrated against the new entrant, claiming with some justification that the licensing system needs to be protected because it in turn protects passengers. Uber is now banned across Germany. What does not need to be protected, however, is the inflated fares charged by Geneva taxi companies. A virtual cartel, they must recognize that their steep fares are indefensible given the mediocre service they offer. .
Uber has ignored Geneva’s edict that it should not launch unless it adheres to current regulations. Steve Salom, the company’s general manager, claims that Uber is “200% legal”. Its marketing, though, is not as vacuous as the maths of its general manager. This is a company that plays to the market’s desire for low prices as it pockets virtually unearned revenues. And what about the safety of passengers in unlicensed taxis driven by “private drivers”?
Let’s hope Swiss start-up, Tooxme, ups its game. At CHF 0.99 per kilometre, it’s half the cost of Uber, and drivers and passengers have to rate each other for security purposes.