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Legal questions ain’t over for Uber

By: - Reporter / @erikaINQ
/ 03:05 AM September 19, 2015

THE POPULAR app-enabled ridesharing service Uber remains the target of legal scrutiny despite securing government accreditation last month.

This time, its pricing system came under fire from the party-list group 1-United Transport Koalisyon (1-Utak), which called on a regulatory agency to take back Uber’s accreditation and deny the franchise applications of its partner vehicles.

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In a petition filed early this week in the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), 1-Utak said the May 2015 department order that created the transportation network company (TNCs) as a new category of transport service was illegal for it granted such companies the power to set their own fares.

The group cited what happened on the night of Sept. 8, when rates charged by Uber vehicles “dramatically increased” as heavy rains and flash floods paralyzed traffic and public transportation went scarce in many parts of Metro Manila.

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“While other public utility services have to get LTFRB approval for any adjustment of fares or additional charges, TNCs and TNVS (transportation network vehicle service) can dictate and adjust their fares without any limitation,” said the petition signed by 1-Utak president Melencio Vargas and acting secretary general Joseph Florizel Cruz.

The petition also argued that TNC member vehicles are not among those exempted from an “existing moratorium” on the issuance of certificates of public convenience for certain types of vehicles.

LTFRB chair Winston Ginez, who called for a meeting with Uber and GrabTaxi representatives regarding complaints on their pricing, “choosy” drivers, and other matters on Friday, noted that Uber’s fare indeed surged “about five times the usual rate” on Sept. 8.

The board asked the two companies to submit their position papers “on when and how can LTFRB exercise its oversight function.”

“We want to give them the opportunity to be heard. (The regulation) is important because we don’t want predatory pricing,” Ginez said.

Under the May 2015 order of the Department of Transportation and Communications, which is cited by the 1-Utak petition, fares set by TNCs would be “subject to oversight from the LTFRB in cases of abnormal disruptions of the market.”

The LTFRB will hear the group’s petition on Sept. 23.

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Donemark Calimon, the Uber representative in Friday’s meeting, said the surge in prices was “algorithmically dictated by the system based on demand.” He stressed that passengers are informed about it before they confirm the booking.

Natasha Bautista of GrabCar, meanwhile, said the company would submit its position paper but she explained that surge pricing is not practiced under its current system.

Cars or vans booked through TNC apps are called TNVS. According to board member Ariel Inton, the LTFRB has not yet issued a single TNVS franchise since the approved applications have only been given provisional authority.

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TAGS: 1-United Transport Koalisyon, GrabTaxi, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, LTFRB, ridesharing app, ridesharing service, Uber
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