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New Bill to bring aggregators like Uber under law

The proposed Road Transport & Safety Bill, expected to soon be cleared by the government, has for the first time incorporated clauses to bring companies like like Uber, termed ‘aggregators’, under the ambit of regulation.

One has to get a permit to operate radio taxi services, under Section 74 of the Motor Vehicles Act, which clearly specifies size of the fleet, verification and qualification of the drivers and their profile, and the condition of the vehicle, among other things. However, experts say that companies like Uber use a loophole under which they function as aggregators and the same rules do not apply. They basically offer a platform through which independent taxi service operators meet customers looking for cabs. Uber does not own a single cab.

Section 162 of the proposed Bill deals with such entities. It says an appropriate agency authorised by the National Transport Authority or the State Transport Authority might require an aggregator to furnish information relating to matters in their possession or control.

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The information to be furnished includes the total number of journeys undertaken by passengers on the services operated by the aggregator in the jurisdiction of its authority. Also, details on the structure of fares for those journeys and the total distance covered by the vehicles used by the operator in those services. The operator could be required to provide the information digitally or in any form, having regard to the manner in which the information is kept.

Experts say aggregators are under no obligation in the existing system to undertake, for instance, verification of the drivers using their technology platform. Any commercially registered driver could register with Uber.

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